Sunday, February 16, 2014

Archaeologists and chemists trace diets of ancient Britain

The change by our ancestors from hunter-gathers to farmers is one of the most intensively researched aspects of archaeology. Now a large-scale investigation of British archaeological sites dating from around 4,600 BC to 1,400 AD has examined millions of fragments of bone and analysed over 1,000 cooking pots. 

Early Neolithic Carinated Bowl from Knocknab, Dumfries & Galloway, one of several analyzed by researchers from the University of Bristol for a study which found that ancient Britons abandoned a fish diet for one based around milk and meat [Credit: © Alison Sheridan, National Museum of Scotland] 

The team, led by Professor Richard Evershed of the University of Bristol's School of Chemistry, developed new techniques in an effort to identify fish oils in the pots. Remarkably, they showed that more than 99 per cent of the earliest farmer's cooking pots lacked sea food residues. 

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