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25 September 2003
Change of diet during the Neolithic

Prehistoric man swapped a diet of fish for meat and vegetables as soon as the opportunity arose, according to researchers at Bradford.  "In Britain it happened very quickly, in a generation or two," team leader Michael Richards said. "We had expected to find a gradual switchover, but this was a virtual dietary revolution."
     Richards' team studied dietary change during the Neolithic period between 5,200 and 4,500 years ago, using stable carbon isotopes present in bone to assess how the rate of change coincided with the emergence of domesticated plants and animals from one based purely on opportunistic hunting. The researchers found there was a rapid and complete change from a marine- to a terrestrial-based diet among both coastal and inland dwellers at the onset of the Neolithic period. This argues against a slow, gradual adoption of agriculture and animal husbandry by Mesolithic societies and the results indicate that the attraction of the new farming lifestyle must have been strong enough to persuade even coastal dwellers to abandon their successful fishing practices.
     The research team published the results in the science journal Nature. "Out went the marine foods and instead we find a wholesale switch to other meats," Richards said.

Sources: New York Post (24 September 2003), Nature (25 September 2003)

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