Pottery use by late Foragers and early Farmers in the Baltic

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bradford
Department Name: Sch of Life Sciences


Whilst shapes, styles and decorations of prehistoric pots have been intensively studied by generations of archaeologists, what pots were actually used for has received much less attention, as until recently it has been extremely difficult to determine the original contents of ceramic vessels. However, using a combination of high-resolution chemical and isotopic methods, traces of foodstuffs and other products either absorbed into the ceramic fabric or preserved as visible surface deposits (sometimes called 'food crusts') can now be detected after thousands of years.

We propose to apply these techniques to a large number of prehistoric pots from Northern Germany and Denmark to examine the changing uses of pottery in the Baltic region during the 4th and 5th Millennia BC. This period is particularly important, as it is when the whole of Northern Europe witnessed massive economic, social and ideological changes, often directly associated with the arrival of agriculture and pastoralism. In particular, we will examine how changes in the use of pots and the introduction of new forms of pottery relate to these economic changes. This will provide a more detailed understanding of the persistence of undomesticated resources into the Neolithic, the rate and completeness of the transition to agriculture and will provide new insights into certain economic activities, such as dairying, which are not easily detectable using other methods.


10 25 50
Description Continuity and change in food preparation and diet across the transition from hunting-gathering-fishing to farming in Northern Europe.

Development and test of new methodology combining lipid biomarkers and single-compound carbon isotopes values for documenting marine and freshwater foods in prehistoric pottery.
Exploitation Route Application to early pottery use across the globe.
Sectors Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

Description Widely disseminated in the national and international press. Dietary change, food preparation and ancient cuisine.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

Description Alexander von Humboldt Research Award
Amount € 60,000 (EUR)
Organisation Alexander von Humboldt Foundation 
Sector Public
Country Germany
Start 09/2014 
End 08/2015