Journal Article

Emergence and intensification of dairying in the Caucasus and Eurasian steppes


Archaeological and archaeogenetic evidence points to the Pontic-Caspian steppe zone between the Caucasus and the Black Sea as the crucible from which the earliest steppe pastoralist societies arose and spread, ultimately influencing populations from Europe to Inner Asia. However, little is known about their economic foundations and the factors that may have contributed to their extensive mobility. Here we investigate dietary proteins within the dental calculus proteomes of 45 individuals spanning the Neolithic to Greco-Roman periods in the Pontic-Caspian Steppe and neighboring South Caucasus, Oka-Volga-Don, and East Urals regions. We find that sheep dairying accompanies the earliest forms of Eneolithic pastoralism in the North Caucasus. During the 4th millennium BCE, Maykop and early Yamnaya populations also focused dairying exclusively on sheep, while reserving cattle for traction and other purposes. We observe a breakdown in livestock specialization and an economic diversification of dairy herds coinciding with aridification during the subsequent late Yamnaya and North Caucasus Culture (NCC) phases, followed by severe climate deterioration during the Catacomb and Lola periods. The need for additional pastures to support these herds may have driven the heightened mobility of the Middle and Late Bronze Age periods. Following a hiatus of more than 500 years, the North Caucasian steppe was repopulated by Early Iron Age societies with a broad mobile dairy economy, including a new focus on horse milking.

Attached files


Scott, Ashley
Reinhold, Sabine
Hermes, Taylor
Kalmykov, Alexey A.
Belinskiy, Andrey
Buzhilova, Alexandra
Berezina, Natalia
Kantorovich, Anatoliy R.
Maslov, Vladimir E.
Guliyev, Farhad
Lyonnet, Bertille
Gasimov, Parviz
Jalilov, Bakhtiyar
Eminli, Jeyhun
Iskandarov, Emil
Hammer, Emily
Nugent, Selin E.
Hagan, Richard
Majander, Kerttu
Onkamo, Päivi
Nordqvist, Kerkko
Shishlina, Natalia
Kaverzneva, Elena
Korolev, Arkadiy I.
Khokhlov, Aleksandr A.
Smolyaninov, Roman V.
Sharapova, Svetlana V.
Krause, Rüdiger
Karapetian, Marina
Stolarczyk, Eliza
Krause, Johannes
Hansen, Svend
Haak, Wolfgang
Warinner, Christina

Oxford Brookes departments

Faculty of Technology, Design and Environment


Year of publication: 2022
Date of RADAR deposit: 2022-02-23

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License

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