University reveals dairy farms in Finland dating back to 2500 BC
NewsWednesday 30 July 2014
The University of Bristol has traced Finland’s love of milk back to 2500 BC, thanks to some fantastic high-tech techniques in analysing residues preserved in ancient pot fragments.
According to the experts, the Finns are the biggest drinkers of milk in the world currently, and it now seems that they were capable of dairy farming in prehistoric times.
Experts had previously been unable to establish whether prehistoric dairy farming would have been possible in the harsh environment that far north, where the snow would have been falling for up to four months of the year.
Today (30th July) saw the Universities of Bristol and Helsinki publish the results of their research in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
These findings are the first of their kind and have identified that dairy farming took place at 60 degrees north of the equator.
This is as far north as Canada’s northwestern territories, Anchorage in Alaska, Yakutsk in Siberia and southern Greenland.
The research teams used a series of techniques which looked at the modern-day Finnish people’s ability to digest milk into adulthood, whilst also analysing ancient pots.
By comparing the residues that were discovered in the walls of cooking pots from two separate eras and cultures, which date back to circa 3900 BC to 3300 BC and circa 2500 BC, it was clear that the more recent pottery fragments showed evidence of milk fats.
These findings coincided nicely with the transition from a culture of hunting and fishing, which tended to rely on marine foods, to the arrival of ‘Corded Ware’ settlements which we now know saw the introduction of the demonstration of animals.
The lead author from the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology at Bristol University, Dr Lucy Cramp, 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.”
‘Corded Ware’ farming settlers, who were likely to have been genetically different to the hunting and fishing communities, are now being connected - by the results - to modern day Finns.
Dr Volker Heyd, a fellow researcher, 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?"