European hunter-gatherers owned pigs as early as 4600BC

Aug 27, 2013
European hunter-gatherers acquired domesticated pigs from nearby farmers as early as 4600BC, according to new evidence. The domesticated pigs had different colored and spotted coats. Credit: Ben Krause-Kyora, Christian-Albrechts University

European hunter-gatherers acquired domesticated pigs from nearby farmers as early as 4600BC, according to new evidence.

The international team of scientists, including researchers at Durham and Aberdeen universities, showed there was interaction between the and farming communities and a 'sharing' of animals and knowledge. The interaction between the two groups eventually led to the hunter-gatherers incorporating farming and breeding of livestock into their culture, say the scientists.

The research, published in Nature Communications today (27 August), gives new insights into the movements of pre-historic humans and the transition of technologies and knowledge.

The spread of throughout Europe between 6000 and 4000BC involved a complex interplay between indigenous Mesolithic hunter-gatherers and incoming Neolithic farmers but the scale of the interaction and the extent to which hunter-gatherers took ideas from their neighbours remains hotly debated.

The researchers say previous evidence about the ownership of by hunter-gatherers has so far been circumstantial.

Lead author, Dr Ben Krause-Kyora, from Christian-Albrechts University in Kiel, Germany, said: "Mesolithic hunter-gatherers definitely had dogs, but they did not practise agriculture and did not have pigs, sheep, goats, or cows, all of which were introduced to Europe with incoming farmers about 6000BC. Having people who practised a very different survival strategy nearby must have been odd, and we know now that the hunter-gathers possessed some of the farmers' domesticated pigs."

It is not yet known whether the hunter-gatherers received the pigs via trade or exchange, or by hunting and capturing escaped animals. However, the had different coloured and spotted coats that would have seemed strange and exotic to the hunter-gatherers and may have attracted them to the pigs.

Co-author, Dr Greger Larson, from the Department of Archaeology at Durham University, added: "Humans love novelty, and though hunter-gatherers exploited wild boar, it would have been hard not to be fascinated by the strange-looking spotted pigs owned by living nearby. It should come as no surprise that the hunter-gatherers acquired some eventually, but this study shows that they did very soon after the domestic pigs arrived in northern Europe."

The team analysed the ancient DNA from the bones and teeth of 63 pigs from Northern Germany which showed that the hunter-gatherers acquired domestic pigs of varying size and coat colour that had both Near Eastern and European ancestry.

Explore further: Researchers reveal hunter-gatherers' taste for spice

More information: Use of domesticated pigs by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers in Northwest Europe, by Krause-Kyora et al, published in Nature Communications, 27 August 2013. DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3348

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Crowd-sourcing Britain's Bronze Age

Apr 17, 2014

A new joint project by the British Museum and the UCL Institute of Archaeology is seeking online contributions from members of the public to enhance a major British Bronze Age archive and artefact collection.

Roman dig 'transforms understanding' of ancient port

Apr 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —Researchers from the universities of Cambridge and Southampton have discovered a new section of the boundary wall of the ancient Roman port of Ostia, proving the city was much larger than previously ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Clippers and coiners in 16th-century England

In 2017 a new £1 coin will appear in our pockets with a design extremely difficult to forge. In the mid-16th century, Elizabeth I's government came up with a series of measures to deter "divers evil persons" ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.

Health care site flagged in Heartbleed review

People with accounts on the enrollment website for President Barack Obama's signature health care law are being told to change their passwords following an administration-wide review of the government's vulnerability to the ...