Regional asynchronicity in dairy production and processing in early farming communities of the northern Mediterranean

Cynthianne Debono Spiteri, Rosalind Gillis, Melanie Roffet-Salque, Laura Castells Navarro, Jean Guilaine, Claire Manen, Italo M. Muntoni, Maria Saña Segui, D Urem-Kotsou, Helen Whelton, Oliver E. Craig, Jean-Denis Vigne, Richard Evershed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

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In the absence of any direct evidence, the relative importance of meat and dairy productions to Neolithic prehistoric Mediterranean communities has been extensively debated. Here, we combine lipid residue analysis of ceramic vessels with osteo-archaeological age at death analysis from 82 northern Mediterranean and Near Eastern sites dating from the 7th-5th millennia BC to address this question. The findings show variable intensities in dairy and nondairy activities in the Mediterranean region with the slaughter profiles of domesticated ruminants mirroring the results of the organic residue analyses. The finding of milk residues in very early Neolithic pottery (7th millennium) from both the east and west of the region contrasts with much lower intensities in sites of northern Greece where pig bones are present in higher frequencies compared to other regions. In this region, the slaughter profiles of all
domesticated ruminants suggest meat production predominated. Overall, it appears that milk or by-products of milk was an important foodstuff, which may have contributed significantly to the spread of these cultural groups by providing a nourishing and sustainable product for early farming communities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13594-13599
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number48
Early online date14 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 29 Nov 2016

Bibliographical note

Please see separate PNAS correction:


  • Archaeology
  • Neolithic
  • Lipid residue analyses
  • archaeozoology
  • milk


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