late foragers and early farmers of the Baltic



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Funded by the AHRC we will undertake the first systematic study of pottery usage patterns by late foragers (Ertebølle culture) and early agricultural populations (Funnel beaker or TRB culture) in the circum Baltic region. These data will be used to evaluate a number of scenarios related to changes in pottery use at the transition to agriculture.


We will also provide a rare insight into the introduction and early use of pottery by late Mesolithic foragers in the south-west Baltic. We will focus on some of the most important ceramic assemblages of the Baltic, including material from submerged contexts with spectacular organic preservation.

Our approach:

  • chemical and isotopic characterisation of lipids (GC, GCMS, GC-C-IRMS) to determine vessels contents.
  • typological and use-wear characteristics to define modes of use and reconstruct usage patterns.
  • microscopic/SEM investigations of surface deposits (‘food crusts’) to identify morphological remains.
  • bulk isotopic measurements on the components of the surface deposits to provide supporting evidence of use.
  • direct AMS dating of the latest Ertebølle and earliest TRB pottery

We will specifically address the following related questions:

i) Pottery use patterns during the Late Mesolithic.

What foods and other products were used in pottery vessels by late Mesolithic foragers?

Are changes in patterns of use discernible from the initial adoption of pottery in the early/mid 5thMillennium BC to the final phases prior to the arrival of agriculture?

Are there regional differences in pottery vessel use or between inland and coastal areas?

ii) Pottery use patterns at the Mesolithic/Neolithic transition.

Do similar pottery usage patterns continue or is a change evident with the first evidence of agriculture in the Neolithic?

Are changes in pottery use observed immediately at the Mesolithic/Neolithic transition?How is this related to the new vessel forms (see above) seen in the Early Neolithic?

Are there regional differences in pottery vessel use or between inland and coastal areas?