In a groundbreaking archaeological discovery in the Huescan Pyrenees, researchers have unveiled intricate livestock management strategies and feeding practices, challenging the traditional perception of early high mountain societies during the Neolithic period. Published in Frontiers in Environmental Archaeology and coordinated by the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) in collaboration with the CSIC, the University of Évora, and the Government of Aragon, the study integrates carbon and nitrogen stable isotope analysis with archaeozoological analyses.
Contrary to the prevailing notion of limited activities such as transhumance of sheep and goats, the research at the archaeological site of Coro Trasito offers a unique insight into the complex farming and livestock practices of the first high mountain societies around 6,500 to 7,500 years ago. Historically, high mountain regions were considered seasonal and primarily reliant on wild resources.
The study focused on characterizing livestock practices and feeding strategies in the Early Neolithic period, challenging the traditional emphasis on sheep and goat transhumance. The researchers applied a pioneering combination of stable carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis in bone collagen, offering insights into animal diet and their position in the food chain. Coupled with archaeozoological analysis, the study revealed distinct management and feeding strategies among different animal flocks.
The results indicated that the initial settlers in high mountain regions had small flocks comprising cows, goats, sheep, and pigs, primarily utilized for meat and milk production. This challenges the conventional narrative and highlights the early economic importance of pigs in the Neolithic period. The study also identified diverse approaches to animal feeding, showcasing adaptation to environmental conditions within the Coro Trasito cave.
The research demonstrated that the inhabitants of Coro Trasito relied predominantly on domestic resources, challenging the notion of high mountain societies relying heavily on wild resources. Moreover, the identification of transformation activities related to dairy products and fat, along with the presence of storage structures within the cave, signifies the complexity of neolithization processes in the Central Pyrenees. The findings indicate rapid integration into a broader and more intricate economic system, reshaping our understanding of the early high mountain societies during the Neolithic period.