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Direct Evidence Found for Dairy Consumption in the Pyrenees in the Earliest Stages of the Neolithic

A joint study conducted by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, the University of Zaragoza and the University of Strasbourg on the remains of the Chaves and Puyascada caves, both located in the province of Huesca, Spain, yields the first direct proof of the consumption and processing of dairy products in the Pyrenees already at the start of the Neolithic period, approximately 7,500 years ago, as well as the consumption of pig.

The analysis of the content and use of prehistoric vessels has become a valuable source of information on the food patterns and subsistence practices of past societies.

Research conducted on the materials found at the Huescan sites of Cueva de Chaves (Bastaràs), at 640 meters above sea level, and at Espluga de la Puyascada (La Fueva), at 1,300 meters above sea level, in a strictly Pyrenean mountain region, has yielded the first direct evidence of dairy product consumption and processing in the Pyrenees during the earliest stages of the Neolithic.

The study was conducted by prehistorians from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) and the University of Zaragoza, and chemists from the University of Strasbourg, France, on materials on display at the Huesca Museum.

The research was conducted through a combination of techniques used to identify organic residues and the isotopic characterization of fatty acids to determine animal origin, as well as data obtained of the morphology and functionality of ceramics and the archaeozoological studies of both sites.

The analysis of organic residues preserved in the argillaceous matrix of the interior of 36 ceramic vessels indicates that 7,500 years ago,  were already processed and consumed in the Central Pyrenees. The correlation between the residues of dairy fats and the different forms of the pottery suggests, moreover, that all the processes (preparation, consumption and storage) were carried out in both settlements.

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