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      A Stored-Products Revolution in the 1st Millennium BC

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      Archaeology International

      Ubiquity Press

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          Abstract

          Keeping plants and animals beyond their natural shelf life is a central human challenge, both as a matter of immediate survival and for the social and economic opportunities that stored foods offer. Understanding different food storage and preservation strategies in the past is key to a whole series of other research agendas, but remains challenging, not least because the evidence is patchy and hard to interpret. The paper below joins growing efforts to address this long-established challenge and surveys a host of changes in preservative treatments and food storage facilities across the Mediterranean and temperate Europe during the 1 st millennium BC. While in most cases, the observed changes have a deeper prehistoric pedigree, nevertheless their mutually-reinforcing intensification at this time constitutes a real revolution, with far-reaching consequences.

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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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            Earliest evidence for cheese making in the sixth millennium BC in northern Europe.

            The introduction of dairying was a critical step in early agriculture, with milk products being rapidly adopted as a major component of the diets of prehistoric farmers and pottery-using late hunter-gatherers. The processing of milk, particularly the production of cheese, would have been a critical development because it not only allowed the preservation of milk products in a non-perishable and transportable form, but also it made milk a more digestible commodity for early prehistoric farmers. The finding of abundant milk residues in pottery vessels from seventh millennium sites from north-western Anatolia provided the earliest evidence of milk processing, although the exact practice could not be explicitly defined. Notably, the discovery of potsherds pierced with small holes appear at early Neolithic sites in temperate Europe in the sixth millennium BC and have been interpreted typologically as 'cheese-strainers', although a direct association with milk processing has not yet been demonstrated. Organic residues preserved in pottery vessels have provided direct evidence for early milk use in the Neolithic period in the Near East and south-eastern Europe, north Africa, Denmark and the British Isles, based on the δ(13)C and Δ(13)C values of the major fatty acids in milk. Here we apply the same approach to investigate the function of sieves/strainer vessels, providing direct chemical evidence for their use in milk processing. The presence of abundant milk fat in these specialized vessels, comparable in form to modern cheese strainers, provides compelling evidence for the vessels having being used to separate fat-rich milk curds from the lactose-containing whey. This new evidence emphasizes the importance of pottery vessels in processing dairy products, particularly in the manufacture of reduced-lactose milk products among lactose-intolerant prehistoric farming communities.
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              Famine and Food Supply in the Graeco-Roman World

               Peter Garnsey (2009)
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Journal
                2048-4194
                Archaeology International
                Ubiquity Press
                2048-4194
                17 January 2020
                2019
                : 22
                : 1
                : 127-144
                Affiliations
                [1 ]UCL Institute of Archaeology, London WC1H 0PY, GB
                Article
                10.5334/ai-404
                Copyright: © 2019 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC-BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. See http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.

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                Research article

                Archaeology, Cultural studies

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