Secondary Products Revolution – origins of use of animals for milk, wool, and traction

From 1980 to 1985, my research focused on testing a major theoretical model that was developed by Andrew Sherratt to explain the evolution of cultures from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age in the Near East and Europe. I decided to test this model with newly collected data from temperate southeastern Europe (i.e., the central Balkans). This research involved the excavation and analysis of over almost two dozen zooarchaeological assemblages from Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Greece.

My early research overturned a long held belief that domestic animals were first domesticated for both their primary (meat, hide, bone) and secondary products (milk, wool, traction). It demonstrated that the earliest domestic animals in Europe were not exploited for their secondary products (milk, wool, and traction) until the Eneolithic and Bronze Age (after 3000 BC). This was almost 3000 years after initial domestication.

In recent years, it has been extensively demonstrated that milk lipids occur in ceramics from the earliest Pottery Neolithic onwards. Given my (and other scholars) analyses of the harvest profiles of domestic livestock from across the Near East and Europe, it is clear that goats were the likely source of most of the early milk. From the Eneolithic onwards, it appears that cattle and sheep were intensively exploited for their secondary products.

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