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M. S. Copley, R. Berstan, A. J. Mukherjee, S. N. Dudd, V. Straker, S. Payne, and R. P. Evershed 2005 Dairying in antiquity. III. Evidence from absorbed lipid residues dating to the British Neolithic, Journal of Archaeological Science 32, 2005, 523-546. Up to the 1990s there has only been a slow development in the study of food residues. This was due to the fact that they occur only in small quantities and only under favourable circumstances like carbonization, charring, or water logging. It needed a further development of instrumental analytic to make a biochemical analysis feasible for its application in archaeology. Most of the applications in archaeology were dealing with food residues from charred deposits in pots (e. g. Needham & Evans 1987). Therefore it was more than welcome when Richard Evershed and his team at the Biogeochemistry Research Centre in Bristol started concentrating on extracting lipids from pores of the pottery itself in the early 1990s. From the late 1990s onwards he and his team consisting mostly of Postdoctoral researchers, PhD graduates, research associates, and research fellows started to apply their analysis to British pottery with the aim of making a prediction about dairying in the British Prehistory. Since Andrew Sherratt introduced the idea of a Secondary Products Revolution an important topic in British Prehistory has always been the question of how and when dairying was introduced into the British Isles. In this article Copley et al. are presenting a comprehensive analysis of their studies of vessels from six Neolithic sites in Southern Britain to show how modern lipid residue analysis can be applied to archaeological questions and also to demonstrate that dairying was an important part of British Prehistoric animal husbandry. This article is an important one because it

a) complements studies on husbandry where no or not enough bone material is available as
is the case for example in Yarnton Floodplain

b) uses a method that allows simultaneous radiocarbon dating and hence gives us a clue
about the beginning of a dairying tradition c) describes a method easily available, after all pots are found on nearly all excavated Neolithic sites d) gives us a reliable method at hand since dairy fats are preserved relatively well in soil with little diagenesis e) can allocate pottery types to function

To achieve his goals Copley et al. analyzed a statistically significant number of potsherds (438 altogether) from six Neolithic sites in Southern Britain. After extracting the lipids with solvents they looked for 13C stable isotopes because C18:0 fatty acids (Stearic

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Acid) in dairy fats have lower δ13C values than C18:0 from adipose fats. This is mainly due to the fact that C18:0 cannot be produced in mammary glands. Copley et al. are presenting their data in tabular, graphical, and descriptive form. They convincingly show that between 30 and 60 % of the sherds were containing lipid residues and that in some cases as much as 35 % of the sherds contained dairy fat. In any case, all Neolithic sites proved to have dairy fats present in their pottery with roughly 50 % of the pots with lipid residues sourcing from dairy fat. The authors then compared their findings with the faunal assemblage of each site (where possible) and, using Legge’s (Legge 1981) theories about culling patterns in meat or milk producing societies, demonstrated that mortality rates and sex variations confirmed either a concentration on dairying or at least a mixed utilization of cattle. The results of the δ13C values are presented in a very pleasing way, using plots in which expected values from reference animal fat are shown as ellipses, thus even researchers not familiar with their methodology are easily able to associate their findings with the respective lipid of ruminant adipose, ruminant dairy or porcine adipose fat. A very important issue, not included in Evershed’s earlier works is the association between vessel type and vessel use. This is a key objective for further studies because until recently only typological studies were possible to conclude the actual use of the vessel. Thus so-called ‘cheese strainers’ have been interpreted as being used for the production of cheese. However, function and form cannot always as coherently assigned to each other as one might think. This is shown in a study by Oliver Craig and colleagues (Craig et al. 2003), where an examination of supposed milk jugs of the Hungarian Copper Age didn’t confirm their use for milk products. Copley et al. showed that certain vessels, like Beakers, did not hold products with high lipid concentration which is conform to earlier studies on Beakers, like the one from Ashgrove Farm in Fife and endorsed by a more recent study by Elisa Guerrra-Doce (Guerra-Doce 2006). Other vessel forms, however, show no distinction in their use pattern. A further interesting aspect is an approach of studying pots from one site with respect of their location to demonstrate any intra-site variability. Although Copley et al. concluded that there is no correlation between final deposition of the vessel and the product it once held, it is n important instrument for inclusion in future site studies. Apart from minor editorial glitches, like a wrong subheading for fig. 5, the article by Copley et al still has some drawbacks. First of all the selection of potsherds does not allow a statement like

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“These results confirm that dairying was an established component of the agricultural practices that reached Britain in the 5th Millennium BC” (Copley et al. 2005: 523) Despite of a statistically significant number of investigated potsherds, the origin of the latter are very much restricted to material coming from monumental sites (with the exception of Runnymede Bridge and Yarnton Floodplain) and are therefore not representative for normal agricultural practice since these sites have a very special function esp. concerning cattle. The only settlement sites are of Middle and Late Neolithic context and can therefore not be used to demonstrate agricultural practice ‘that reached Britain in the 5 th Millennium BC’, too. Secondly their finding of dairy fat in pots does not necessarily give a statement concerning diet in these societies. The use of milk as a sealant for porous ceramic is just one scenario in which the use of milk is not part of the diet. Although it bight be common sense to believe that Neolithic societies used the pots for producing cheese or fermented milk products is does not explain why the milk should have been boiled in these pots. In most temperate regions cheese is made from raw milk without the need of boiling the milk beforehand. Neither is milk boiled for the production of butter. The question why the milk was actually boiled is not addressed by the authors at all. They also do not discuss their δ13C values. There is no statement about instrument precision or how geography and different fodder could have affected these values. The important inclusion of a blind test to understand degradation etc., which is still missing in this article, is made up for in a later article (Copley et al. 2005). And last but not least, the authors are not comparing their work with other studies to show advantages or disadvantages of their approach (see for example Craig et al. 2000). Apart from all these shortcomings Copley et al. gave the archaeologist an extremely powerful tool at hand, which is easily applicable. A wider application at other sites in Britain, esp. Ireland and Northern Britain but also studies from non-ritual sites will probably allow us to better understand Neolithic diet and husbandry practices, esp. in a regional perspective. It will also shed light on different processes of Neolithization since, as already suggested in this article, acculturation seems unlikely as a mechanism of this process, esp. in view of the present discussion of lactose intolerance.

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What is also needed is further investigation throughout Europe to follow the path of dairying. Some interesting articles already appeared since Evershed introduced this method to archaeology but by no means enough to get a conclusive picture. Hopefully this study will also spark an interest in investigating different vessel types, esp. the ones attributed to dairying on mere stylistic grounds. Despite of all the enthusiasm concerning the application of lipid residue analysis one must not forget that it is still a novel method that is still in its infancy. A blind test (Barnard et al. in press) showed quite illustrative the limitations of different approaches to identify milk residues. It is therefore necessary to complement such studies with other data. Nevertheless, one can only hope that this article inspires many more researchers to include lipid residue analysis in their studies of prehistoric nutrition and husbandry practices. Annette E. Baus University of Reading Department of Archaeology

Literature: Barnard, H., S. H. Ambrose, D. E. Beehr, M. D. Forster, R. E. Lanehart, M. E. Malainey, , R. E. Parr, M. Rider, C. Solazzo and R. M. Yohe II in press Mixed results of seven methods for organic residue analysis applied to one vessel with the residue of known foodstuff, Journal of Archaeological Science. Copley, M. S., R. Berstan, S. N. Dudd, S. Aillaud, A. J. Mukherjee, V. Straker, S. Payne and R. P. Evershed 2005 Processing of milk products in pottery vessels through British prehistory, Antiquity 79, 895-908. Craig, O., J. Mulville, M. P. Pearson, R. Sokol, K. Gelsthorpe, R. Stacey and M. Collins 2000 Detecting milk proteins in ancient pots, Nature 408, 312. Guerra-Doce, E. 2006 Exploring the Significance of Beaker Pottery through Residue Analyses, Oxford Journal of Archaeology 25 (3), 247-59. Legge, A. J. 1981 Aspects of cattle husbandry. In Mercer, R. (ed.), Farming practice in British Prehistory, 169-81, Edinburgh. Needham, St. and J. Evans 1987

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Honey and Dripping: Neolithic Food Residues from Runnymede Bridge, Oxford Journal of Archaeology 6 (1), 21-8.

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