Use of domesticated pigs by Mesolithic hunter-gatherers in northwestern Europe

Ben Kraus-Kyora, Cheryl Makarewicz, Allowen Marie Juliette Evin, Linus Girdland Flink, Keith Dobney, Greger Larson, Sonke Hartze, Stefan Schreiber, Claus von Carnap-Bornheim, Nicole von Wurmb-Schwark , Almut Nebel

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Mesolithic populations throughout Europe used diverse resource exploitation strategies that focused heavily on collecting and hunting wild prey. Between 5500 and 4200 cal BC, agriculturalists migrated into northwestern Europe bringing a suite of Neolithic technologies including domesticated animals. Here we investigate to what extent Mesolithic Ertebølle communities in northern Germany had access to domestic pigs, possibly through contact with neighbouring Neolithic agricultural groups. We employ a multidisciplinary approach, applying sequencing of ancient mitochondrial and nuclear DNA (coat colour-coding gene MC1R) as well as traditional and geometric morphometric (molar size and shape) analyses in Sus specimens from 17 Neolithic and Ertebølle sites. Our data from 63 ancient pig specimens show that Ertebølle hunter-gatherers acquired domestic pigs of varying size and coat colour that had both Near Eastern and European mitochondrial DNA ancestry. Our results also reveal that domestic pigs were present in the region ~500 years earlier than previously demonstrated.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2348
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 27 Aug 2013

Bibliographical note

We thank the Archaeological State Museum Schleswig-Holstein, the Archaeological State Offices of Brandenburg, Lower Saxony and Saxony and the following individuals who provided sample material: Betty Arndt, Jo¨rg Ewersen, Frederick Feulner, Susanne Hanik, Ru¨diger Krause, Jochen Reinhard, Uwe Reuter, Karl-Heinz Ro¨hrig, Maguerita Scha¨fer, Jo¨rg Schibler, Reinhold Schoon, Regina Smolnik, Thomas Terberger and Ingrid Ulbricht. We are grateful to Ulrich Schmo¨lcke, Michael Forster, Peter Forster and Aikaterini Glykou for their support and comments on the manuscript. We also thank many
institutions and individuals that provided sample material and access to collections, especially the curators of the Museum fu¨r Naturkunde, Berlin; Muse´um National d0 Histoire Naturelle, Paris; Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C.; Zoologische Staatssammlung, Mu¨nchen; Museum fu¨r Haustierkunde, Halle; the American Museum of Natural History, New-York. This work was funded by the Graduate School ‘Human Development in Landscapes’ at Kiel University (CAU) and supported by NERC project Grant NE/F003382/1. Radiocarbon dating was carried out at the Leibniz Laboratory, CAU.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons AttributionNonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


  • biological sciences
  • palaeontology


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