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31 October 2011
Ancient pots show transition to agriculture

Based on a recent study, hunter-gatherer humans in what are now the Western Baltic regions of Northern Europe experienced a gradual transition to agriculture.  
     The team of researchers analysed cooking residues preserved in 133 ceramic vessels to determine if they originated from terrestrial, marine, or freshwater food sources. The vessels were chosen from 15 sites dated to approximately 4000 BCE, corresponding to the first evidence of domestication of animals and plants in the region, and included samples obtained from a 6000-year-old submerged settlement site off the Baltic coast of Northern Germany. 
     Of the inland sites, about 28 percent of the pots showed residues from aquatic organisms, likely freshwater fish. Of the sites located in coastal areas, one-fifth of the pots showed traces of aquatic organisms, along with fats and oils normally not present in terrestrial plants and animals.
     "This research provides clear evidence people across the Western Baltic continued to exploit marine and freshwater resources despite the arrival of domesticated animals and plants. Although farming was introduced rapidly across this region, it may not have caused such a dramatic shift from hunter-gatherer life as we previously thought," Team co-leader Oliver Craig of the University of York (UK) said.
     Carl Heron, team co-leader and Professor of Archaeological Sciences at the University of Bradford (UK) added: "Our data set represents the first large scale study combining a wide range of molecular evidence and single-compound isotope data to discriminate terrestrial, marine and freshwater resources processed in archaeological ceramics and it provides a template for future investigations into how people used pots in the past."

Edited from Popular Archaeology (23 October 2011)

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