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The Milking Revolution in Temperate Neolithic Europe


This project explores the introduction and spread of cattle-based agriculture by Neolithic Linearbandkeramik (LBK) farmers and its implications for modelling of the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in Northern and Central Europe beginning ca. 8,000 years ago. This revolutionary shift in human subsistence strategy completely reshaped prehistoric European culture, biology and economy, in ways which underlie modern life virtually worldwide. These changes underpinned the evolution of Lactase Persistence (LP) amongst modern Europeans, while the multi-billion Euro modern dairy economy is a direct consequence of human-induced biological reformulations made in this critical phase in European prehistory. The distinctive pottery that defines the LBK holds the key to understanding the changing roles of animals in the diets, economies and evolutionary genetics of LBK people. The project integrates three research themes: 1. Lipid biomarker and stable isotope analyses of food residues in LBK pottery to provide assessments of the major animal products acquired and processed, to test hypotheses emerging from recent genetic studies indicating the LBK as the core region for the emergence of LP; 2. State-of-the-art analyses, including stable isotope studies of domesticated animal teeth (and bone), of herding and slaughtering practices for cattle and sheep/goats and wild/hunted species compositions, butchery practices, meat and fat exploitation, to define animal husbandry related to the intensification of cattle herding and milking, and 3. Statistical modelling of lipid residue, isotopic and dating evidence from pottery and animal remains, with cultural and palaeoenvironmental records to identify the critical influences on managing and processing animals for meat and milk. The project will provide a unique picture of animal exploitation and milk use across the entire spatiotemporal range of the LBK embedded within a proper environmental and cultural framework.

Call for proposal

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Host institution

EU contribution
€ 1 898 901,00
BS8 1QU Bristol
United Kingdom

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South West (England) Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Bristol/Bath area Bristol, City of
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Principal investigator
Richard Peter Evershed (Prof.)
Administrative Contact
Audrey Michael (Mrs.)
Total cost
No data

Beneficiaries (4)