Scientists analysing 133 pieces of pots dating back 6,000 years found remains of cooked food and performed hyper-sensitive tests on the fats they found there.
Their results suggest that the transition from hunting and fishing to farming was not an overnight change, but a gradual process.
The archaeologists – based at the Schleswig-Holstein museum and Britain’s Bradford University – worked out that many of the pots, which were dated to between 3700 BC and 4500 BC, had been used to either cook or otherwise process milk.
Because the pots came from periods immediately before and after the first evidence of domesticated animals and plants in the Western Baltic, they offer a picture of how much this development changed cooking and eating habits.
The research, published in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National American Academy of Sciences journal, show that around 20 percent of the pots had remains of what the scientists called “marine and freshwater resources” at a time when people were moving to a more land- and farming-based diet.
“These traces of milk products that remain the in vessels offer proof that at around 4000 BC goats, sheep and cows were beginning to be kept as domesticated animals,” said Sönke Hartz from the Schleswig-Holstein regional museum. He was one of the researchers who brought up the first shards of pottery from the depths of the Baltic Sea.
“Thanks to an incredibly sensitive analysis of fat traces, we can distinguish whether they come from marine or land animals.”
“Up until recently we thought that the people of the early stone age had a land-based diet,” said Hartz. But now thanks to the fat analysis, we know that marine resources also played a considerable role in the lives of these early famers.”