Neolithic farmers or Neolithic foragers? Organic residue analysis of early pottery from Rakushechny Yar on the Lower Don (Russia)

Manon Bondetti, Lara González Carretero, Ekaterina Dolbunova, Krista Mcgrath, Sam Presslee, Alexandre Lucquin, Viktor Tsybriy, Andrey Mazurkevich, Andrey Tsybriy, Peter Jordan, Carl Heron, John Meadows, Oliver E. Craig

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The emergence of pottery in Europe is associated with two distinct traditions: hunter-gatherers in the east of the continent during the early 6th millennium BC and early agricultural communities in the south-west in the late 7th millennium BC. Here we investigate the function of pottery from the site of Rakushechny Yar, located at the Southern fringe of Eastern Europe, in this putative contact zone between these two economic ‘worlds’. To investigate, organic residue analysis was conducted on 120 samples from the Early Neolithic phase (ca. mid-6th millennium BC) along with microscopic and SEM analysis of associated foodcrusts. The results showed that the earliest phase of pottery use was predominantly used to process riverine resources. Many of the vessels have molecular and isotopic characteristics consistent with migratory fish, such as sturgeon, confirmed by the identification of sturgeon bony structures embedded in the charred surface deposits. There was no evidence of dairy products in any of the vessels, despite the fact these have been routinely identified in coeval sites to the south. Further analysis of some of the mammalian bones using ZooMS failed to demonstrate that domesticated animals were present in the Early Neolithic. Nevertheless, we argue that intensive exploitation of seasonally migratory fish, accompanied by large-scale pottery production, created storable surpluses that led to similar socio-economic outcomes as documented in early agricultural societies. © 2021, Crown.
Original languageEnglish
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021

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