New insights into what Neolithic people ate in southeastern Europe

January 15, 2019

New research, led by the University of Bristol, has shed new light on the eating habits of Neolithic people living in southeastern Europe using food residues from pottery extracts dating back more than 8,000 years.

With the dawn of the Neolithic age, farming became established across Europe and people turned their back on aquatic resources, a food source more typical of the earlier Mesolithic period, instead preferring to eat meat and dairy products from domesticated animals.

The research, published today in the journal Royal Society Proceedings B, reveals that people living in the Iron Gates region of the Danube continued regular fish-processing, whereas pottery extracts previously examined from hundreds of sherds elsewhere in Europe show that meat and dairy was the main food source in pots.

This region is archaeologically very important because the sites document Late Mesolithic forager settlements and the first appearance of Neolithic culture, which is spreading up through Europe illustrated by the first appearances of pottery, domesticated plants and animals and different burial styles.

The Iron Gates is a unique landscape on the border between modern-day Romania and Serbia where the Danube cuts through the junction of the Balkan and Carpathian mountain chains. It provided a rich wild aquatic resource base for prehistoric hunter-fisher-foragers during the Late Glacial and early Holocene.

As farming spread from south west Asia into Europe, prehistoric diets ultimately transformed towards a diet based upon domesticated plants and animals. However, in this region, evidence has suggested that wild resources may have continued to be important well into the early Neolithic.

This research involved analysis of organic residues surviving in the fabric of 8,000-year-old Neolithic pottery excavated from sites on the banks of the Danube.

Chemical analyses allowed scientists to directly see what kinds of resources were being prepared in these newly-appearing pots and compare this with the way the same type of pottery was being used by farmers in the wider Balkans region.

Dr Lucy Cramp from the University of Bristol's Department of Anthropology and Archaeology, led the research. She said: "The findings revealed that the majority of Neolithic pots analysed here were being used for processing fish or other aquatic resources.

"This is a significant contrast with an earlier study showing the same type of pottery in the surrounding region was being used for cattle, sheep or goat meat and dairy products.

"It is also completely different to nearly all other assemblages of Neolithic farmer-type pottery previously analysed from across Europe (nearly 1,000 residues) which also show predominantly terrestrial- based resources being prepared in cooking pots (cattle/sheep/goat, possibly also deer), even from locations near major rivers or the coast."

The research team suggest that this unusual dietary/subsistence pattern may be for several reasons.

It is possible that farmers were attracted to this location by the impressive aquatic resources available including huge sturgeon which swam up the river from the Black Sea.

It may also be that Late Mesolithic dietary practices are continuing here, but now using new Neolithic pottery as a result of these early interactions between Mesolithic and Neolithic communities.
-end-


University of Bristol

Related Eating Habits Articles from Brightsurf:

Shifts in water temperatures affect eating habits of larval tuna at critical life stage
Small shifts in ocean temperature can have significant effects on the eating habits of blackfin tuna during the larval stage of development, when finding food and growing quickly are critical to long-term survival.

DNA in fringe-lipped bat poop reveals unexpected eating habits
By examining the poop of the fringe-lipped bat (Trachops cirrhosus), a team at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) encountered surprising results about its eating habits and foraging abilities.

Norman Conquest of 1066 did little to change people's eating habits
Archaeologists from Cardiff University and the University of Sheffield have combined the latest scientific methods to offer new insights into life during the Norman Conquest of England.

Gut bacteria may modify behavior in worms, influencing eating habits
Gut bacteria are tiny but may play an outsized role not only in the host animal's digestive health, but in their overall well-being.

Temperament affects children's eating habits
Temperamental children are at greater risk for developing unhealthy eating habits.

Pre-COVID-19 poll of older adults hints at potential impact of pandemic on eating habits
Most people in their 50s and older were capable home cooks just before COVID-19 struck America, but only 5% had ordered groceries online, according to a new national poll.

Revving habits up and down, new insight into how the brain forms habits
Each day, humans and animals rely on habits to complete routine tasks such as eating.

More stroke awareness, better eating habits may help reduce stroke risk for young adult African-Americans
Young African-Americans are experiencing higher rates of stroke because of health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, yet their perception of their stroke risk is low.

Social media users 'copy' friends' eating habits
Social media users are more likely to eat fruit and veg -- or snack on junk food -- if they think their friends do the same, a new study has found.

Interest in presidential eating habits may affect the public's food choices
A recent study by a Penn State researcher examined how President Donald Trump's reported fondness for fast food may affect the public's perception of fast food and the likelihood, based on their media habits, one might purchase some.

Read More: Eating Habits News and Eating Habits Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.