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Detecting milk proteins in ancient pots

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  • Archaeology
  • Biology


[First paragraph] Deciding whether to farm cattle for milk or beef was just as complex in the past as it is today. Compared with meat production, dairying is a high-input, high-output, high-risk operation indicative of an intensive, sophisticated economy, but this practice is notoriously difficult to demonstrate in the archaeological record. Here we provide evidence for the presence of milk proteins preserved in prehistoric vessels, which to our knowledge have not been detected before. This finding resolves the controversy that has surrounded dairying on the Scottish Atlantic coast during the Iron Age and indicates that farming by the early inhabitants of this harsh, marginal environment was surprisingly well developed.

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