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      Gaining traction on cattle exploitation: zooarchaeological evidence from the Neolithic Western Balkans

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      Antiquity

      Antiquity Publications

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          Abstract

          Abstract

          The study of the exploitation of animals for traction in prehistoric Europe has been linked to the ‘secondary products revolution’. Such an approach, however, leaves little scope for identification of the less specialised exploitation of animals for traction during the European Neolithic. This study presents zooarchaeological evidence—in the form of sub-pathological alterations to cattle foot bones—for the exploitation of cattle for the occasional pulling of heavy loads, or ‘light’ traction. The analysis and systematic comparison of material from 11 Neolithic sites in the Western Balkans ( c. 6100–4500 cal BC) provides the earliest direct evidence for the use of cattle for such a purpose.

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          Earliest date for milk use in the Near East and southeastern Europe linked to cattle herding.

          The domestication of cattle, sheep and goats had already taken place in the Near East by the eighth millennium bc. Although there would have been considerable economic and nutritional gains from using these animals for their milk and other products from living animals-that is, traction and wool-the first clear evidence for these appears much later, from the late fifth and fourth millennia bc. Hence, the timing and region in which milking was first practised remain unknown. Organic residues preserved in archaeological pottery have provided direct evidence for the use of milk in the fourth millennium in Britain, and in the sixth millennium in eastern Europe, based on the delta(13)C values of the major fatty acids of milk fat. Here we apply this approach to more than 2,200 pottery vessels from sites in the Near East and southeastern Europe dating from the fifth to the seventh millennia bc. We show that milk was in use by the seventh millennium; this is the earliest direct evidence to date. Milking was particularly important in northwestern Anatolia, pointing to regional differences linked with conditions more favourable to cattle compared to other regions, where sheep and goats were relatively common and milk use less important. The latter is supported by correlations between the fat type and animal bone evidence.
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            The secondary exploitation of animals in the Old World

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

              This unique research combines the analyses of lipid residues in pottery vessels with slaughter profiles for domesticated ruminants to provide compelling evidence for diverse subsistence strategies in the northern Mediterranean basin during the Neolithic. Our findings show that the exploitation and processing of milk varied across the region, although most communities began to exploit milk as soon as domesticates were introduced between 9,000 and 7,000 y ago. This discovery is especially noteworthy as the shift in human subsistence toward milk production reshaped prehistoric European culture, biology, and economy in ways that are still visible today. 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 seventh to fifth 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 (seventh millennium BC) 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 with other locations. In this region, the slaughter profiles of all domesticated ruminants suggest meat production predominated. Overall, it appears that milk or the 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.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Antiquity
                Antiquity
                Antiquity Publications
                0003-598X
                1745-1744
                December 2018
                December 11 2018
                December 2018
                : 92
                : 366
                : 1462-1477
                Article
                10.15184/aqy.2018.178
                © 2018

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