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NeoMilk: The milking revolution in temperate Neolithic Europe

Professor Alan Outram

This major inter-disciplinary project is funded by an ERC Advanced Grant (2013-2018) led by Professor Richard P. Evershed (School of Chemistry, Bristol). It explores the introduction and spread of cattle-based agriculture by early Neolithic Linearbandkeramik (LBK) farmers and its implications for modelling the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in Northern and Central Europe during the 6th millennium BC. Lipid biomarker and stable isotope compositions of food residues from LBK pottery containers will provide qualitative and quantitative assessments of the major animal products acquired and processed in LBK pottery (Theme 1, Richard Evershed and Melanie Salque, School of Chemistry, Bristol).

Theme 2, the bioarchaeological study of domesticated animals during the LBK (herd management, milking, butchery and fat exploitation) will be led by Alan Outram (Exeter), Alex Bentley and Penny Bickle (Archaeology and Anthropology, Bristol) and Jean-Denis Vigne (CNRS, Paris). Archaeological patterns of animal management and milk use will be chronicled, mapped and correlated to environmental, as part of Theme 3, by Volker Heyd (Archaeology and Anthropology, Bristol), Arkadiusz Marciniak (University of Poznan) and Mark Thomas (Molecular and Cultural Evolution Lab, UCL).

The Exeter work package particularly addresses variation in taphonomy, butchery patterns and animal fat use across time and space within the LBK, particularly in relation to evidence for dairying. Project PhD student Emily Johnson will be carrying out substantial original zooarchaeological analyses on key sites that will also contribute new information to consideration of herd structures being synthesized by the Paris zooarchaeologists. Alex Bentley, at Bristol, will be conducting stable isotope analyses to further inform our understanding of animal management systems.