Late foragers and early farmers of the Baltic


The aim of the ‘Late foragers and early farmers of the Baltic’ project was to investigate the origins, use, dating and social context of Late Mesolithic and Early Neolithic pottery. In order to do so Ertebølle and Funnel Beaker ceramics from Denmark and Germany were sampled by the multidisciplinary group of archaeologists and scientists from the universities of Bradford and York.

Food crust in a Funnel Beaker vessel (Eva Koch)

Their approach ranged from ‘why pottery was important to the early agricultural and pre-agricultural societies’ to a more fined grained macroscopic and microscopic analyses. For example, the biomolecular analyses of organic residues, which are often termed ‘food crusts’, was carried out to provide details of use of individual vessels.

Multiple methods were employed, including the chemical and isotopic characterisation of lipids to determine vessel contents (GC, GC-MS, GC-c-IRMS). Typological (form, manufacturing technique and function) and use-wear characteristics were also recorded to define modes of use and reconstruct usage patterns. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) was carried out to investigate surface deposits (food crusts) and to identify morphological remains. In addition, bulk carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analyses on the surface deposits was performed to provide supporting evidence of use. Lastly, AMS dating of the pottery was undertaken.


Funded by the AHRC, carried out under the direction of Oliver Craig and Carl Heron, the project was the first systematic study of pottery usage patterns by the late foragers of the Ertebølle culture, and the early agriculturalists of the Funnel Beaker culture in the circum Baltic region. The project, which was completed in 2010, resulted in a number of key findings, see our publications.