Corded Ware sherds. Image; Finnish National Board of AntiquitiesAnalysis confirms dairy farming in prehistoric Finland
Article created on Wednesday, July 30, 2014
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The Finns are the world’s biggest milk drinkers today but experts had previously been unable to establish whether prehistoric dairy farming was possible in the harsh environment that far north, where there is snow for up to four months a year.
Research by the Universities of Bristol and Helsinki, published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, is the first of its kind to identify that dairying took place at this latitude – 60 degrees north of the equator. This is equally as far north as Canada’s Northwestern territories, Anchorage in Alaska, Southern Greenland and near Yakutsk in Siberia.
Researchers used a series of techniques, not just to analyse the ancient pots, but also to look at modern-day Finnish peoples’ ability to digest milk into adulthood.
Evidence of milk fats
By comparing the residues found in the walls of cooking pots from two separate eras and cultures, dating to circa 3900 BC to 3300 BC and circa 2500 BC, the more recent pottery fragments showed evidence of milk fats.
This coincided with the transition from a culture of hunting and fishing – relying mainly on marine foods – to the arrival of ‘Corded Ware’ settlements which we now know saw the introduction of animal domestication.
Challenging conditions for over wintering
Lead author Dr Lucy Cramp, from the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at Bristol University, said: “This is remarkable evidence which proves that four and a half thousand years ago, Stone Age people must have been foddering and sheltering domesticated animals over harsh winters, in conditions that even nowadays we would find challenging.”
The results also drew a connection between the ‘Corded Ware’ farming settlers – who were likely to have been genetically different to the hunting and fishing communities – and modern day Finns.
Fellow researcher Dr Volker Heyd added: “Our results show a clear link between an incoming pre-historic population, milk drinking and the ability to digest milk in adulthood still visible in the genetic distribution of modern Finland, which remains one of the highest consumers of dairy products in the world.”
Professor Richard Evershed, from the School of Chemistry said: “It never ceases to amaze me that these sensitive chemical signatures of changing human life survive in the archaeological record for thousands of years. And it leaves one pondering what was motivating the people to move into these challenging regions?”
Source: University of Bristol
Neolithic dairy farming at the extreme of agriculture in northern Europe. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, July 30, 2014 – Open Access
Cite this article
University of Bristol. Analysis confirms dairy farming in prehistoric Finland. Past Horizons. July 30, 2014, from http://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/07/2014/analysis-confirms-dairy-farming-in-prehistoric-finlandhttp://www.pasthorizonspr.com/index.php/archives/07/2014/analysis-confirms-dairy-farming-in-prehistoric-finland