The development of dairying in Europe: potential evidence from food residues on ceramics


  • Oliver E. Craig Institute of Fossil Fuels and Environmental Geochemistry, Newcastle University



organic residue analysis, Neolithic ceramic, dairying, secondary products revolution


Providing evidence of dairying is crucial to the understanding of the development and intensification of Neolithic farming practices in Europe, beyond the early stages of domestication. Until recently, research in this field had been limited to traditional archaeological methods, such as the study of pottery styles, faunal remains and specialised material artefacts. Although suggestive, these methods are unable to provide direct evidence of dairying. Advances in biomolecular methods now allow the identification of remnants of dairy products on ceramic vessels and the application of these methods to Neolithic ceramic assemblages across Europe is underway. There is no doubt that these new methods offer much scope for investigating hypotheses such as the ‘secondary products revolution’, but there are limitations. The cost of analyses prohibits indiscriminate sampling and differential survival is likely to prevent direct comparison of samples from different sites. Only by incorporating these techniques within the wider frameworks of archaeological research may theories be properly tested. Approaches to achieve this goal are discussed.


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How to Cite

Craig, O. E. (2002). The development of dairying in Europe: potential evidence from food residues on ceramics. Documenta Praehistorica, 29, 97–107.