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28 January 2019
Neolithic diets in southeastern Europe

When farming became established across Europe in the Neolithic, most people preferred to eat meat and dairy products from domesticated animals rather than the aquatic resources more typical of the earlier Mesolithic period, however food residues from 8,000 year old pottery reveal that people living in the Iron Gates region of the Danube continued regular fish-processing.
     The Iron Gates is a unique landscape on the border between modern-day Romania and Serbia where the Danube cuts through the junction of the Balkan and Carpathian mountain chains. It provided a rich wild aquatic resource base for prehistoric hunter-fisher-foragers during the Late Glacial and early Holocene. The region is archaeologically very important because the sites document Late Mesolithic forager settlements and the first appearance of Neolithic culture spreading up through Europe, as evidenced by the first appearances of pottery, domesticated plants and animals, and different burial styles. In this region, wild resources may have continued to be important well into the early Neolithic.
     Project leader Doctor Lucy Cramp from the University of Bristol says: "The findings revealed that the majority of Neolithic pots analysed here were being used for processing fish or other aquatic resources. This is a significant contrast with an earlier study showing the same type of pottery in the surrounding region was being used for cattle, sheep or goat meat and dairy products. It is also completely different to nearly all other assemblages of Neolithic farmer-type pottery previously analysed from across Europe which also show predominantly terrestrial-based resources being prepared in cooking pots, even from locations near major rivers or the coast."
     It may also be that Late Mesolithic dietary practices are continuing here using new Neolithic pottery as a result of early interactions between Mesolithic and Neolithic communities.

Edited from PhysOrg (15 January 2019), The Royal Society Publishing (16 January 2019)

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