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Cattle husbandry and dairying at the introduction of the Corded Ware Culture: Agricultural and dietary change during the 3rd Millenium BC

Project description

Impact of the Corded Ware Culture on cattle husbandry and dairying

The Corded Ware Culture was present across much of central and northern Europe during the late Neolithic period. The people linked to this culture shared burial practices and cord-decorated ceramics, and may have had an increased reliance on dairy products due to a genetic adaptation allowing them to tolerate the higher levels of lactose present in fresh milk. However, we have little detailed insight into animal husbandry practices at this time. The EU-funded CatCoW project will focus on animal bone and pottery recovered from settlements located in modern-day Switzerland and the Netherlands to determine whether the Corded Ware is associated with new cattle stock, perhaps linked to increased migration from the Eurasian steppe, and greater reliance on dairy products.


The introduction of the Corded Ware Culture across much of Central and Northern Europe during the 3rd millennium BC was a time of major cultural transformation, which recent ancient genomic work has linked to a series of migrations from the Pontic-Caspian steppe region. The people attributed to the Corded Ware Culture had shared burial practices, material culture and cord-decorated ceramics, and it has also been suggested that they had an increased reliance on dairy products compared to other Neolithic populations, evidenced by a higher frequency of the genetic variant for lactase persistence than other Neolithic populations, meaning that they could tolerate the higher amounts of lactose present in fresh milk. However, the context of this potential dietary change has not been explored, and we currently do not know enough about how animal husbandry practices or agriculture may have changed at this time, or how dairy products were being used on a daily basis.
CatCoW will investigate this issue. It will consider the hypothesis that Corded Ware Culture migration from the steppe led to the introduction of new cattle stock and an increasing economic reliance on dairy products. To do this it will focus on animal bone and pottery recovered from settlements in the areas now occupied by modern day Switzerland and the Netherlands, which both have rich archaeological records covering the transition to the Corded Ware Culture. This highly interdisciplinary study will consist of four parallel and complementary lines of investigation: 1. Archaeozoology, 2. Archaeogenetics, 3. Organic Residue Analysis, and 4. Palaeoproteomics.


Net EU contribution
€ 212 933,76
YO10 5DD York north yorkshire
United Kingdom

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Yorkshire and the Humber North Yorkshire York
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Other funding
€ 0,00