Exploring pottery use across the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in Northern Europe


The transition from hunting and foraging to farming had far reaching consequences for our economic, social and ideological development and is a major theme in prehistoric research. In the circum-Baltic, the reasons for this change at circa 4000 cal BCE are unclear since much of the region was occupied with highly successful hunter-fisher-gatherers who were well adapted to the resource rich coastal and inland ecosystems. The project will question the value of wild and domesticated foods in the region through the novel lens of changing culinary practices. Principally organic residue analysis will be applied to the unique pottery sequences at Dabki, Dudka and Szczepanki in Poland. All three sites capture key aspects of the Neolithisation process and demonstrate long-distance cultural exchange between the Baltic and Central Europe (Hungary-Serbia) as well as Eastern Europe (Ukraine-Moldova). Another aim of the project is to develop a statistical approach to unravel mixtures of pottery contents; the technique is in its infancy and has not yet been applied to an archaeological assemblage.

Early Neolithic Type III Funnel Beaker from Neverkær, Denmark (Neil Gevaux).

To do this I will address the following questions:
1. Can culinary ‘staples’ be identified through ORA of large utilitarian cooking vessels and do these change with the arrival of domesticates?
2. Are specific foodstuffs deliberately separated and if so are these associated with particular pottery types?
3. Are the earliest domesticated animal products, such as dairy, associated with particular vessel forms? Are they mixed with other foods or treated specially in any way?
4. How were the exogenous ‘Danubian’ vessels at Dabki, Dudka and Szczepanki used by the EBK communities? Crucially, did domesticated foods first appear in these vessels prior to their wider adoption in the Neolithic?
5. Was pottery used selectively? i.e. are the foods cooked in pots representative of wider faunal and botanical assemblages?


The project has been funded by The British Academy and is being undertaken by Harry Robson and Oliver Craig.