Iron Age origins of European Alpine dairy farming

Chemical analysis of organic residues from pottery reveals lipids

Dairy produce from the high Alps is today of enormous economic and cultural importance to the region. The recent history of dairy farming is well-documented, but there is very little in the way of archaeological evidence to attest to its origins. Transhumance (seasonal migration of livestock between pastures) leaves few traces, and the problem is compounded by acidic soils that lead to the deterioration of faunal remains. Continue reading

Is the steppe migration theory of Indo-European origins correct after all?

Genetic study challenges Anatolian farmer hypothesis

One of the longest-running debates in the study of prehistory is the origin of the Indo-European language family. This group includes languages spoken from Great Britain and Ireland to India the steppes of Central Asia, and a connection between them was established as far back as the late eighteenth century. It is assumed that all originated from a single mother tongue, Proto-Indo-European (PIE), but where was PIE spoken?
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Novel agro-pastoral package enabled settlement of Tibetan Plateau

Barley and sheep enabled agriculturalists to live at high altitude

A new study, published in the journal Science, has documented human adaptations to living at high altitudes on the Tibetan Plateau. This vast elevated region in Central Asia includes most of Tibet and Qinghai Province, together with a part of the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. Measuring 1,000 km (620 miles) from north to south and 2,500 km (1,600 miles) east to west, it has an area of 2,500,000 sq. km (970,000 sq. miles) or roughly five times the size of France. With an average elevation exceeding 4,500 m (14,800 ft.), the Tibetan Plateau is the world’s highest and largest plateau, for which reason it is popularly known as “the roof of the world”.

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Evidence for Neolithic dairy farming in Finland

Lipid residues from prehistoric sherds reveal transition around 2500 BC

It has long been debated whether Neolithic farming economies were ever established at the limits of modern agriculture around the 60th parallel north. Thanks to the warming effects of the Gulf Stream, sustainable farming economies were established slightly to the south, in Britain, southern Norway and Sweden. In Finland, however, agriculture is problematic even today due to lower temperatures and a snow cover for several months of the year.
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