Investigating the significance of cattle dairying in the Dutch Neolithic: results from zooarchaeological and stable isotope (δ18O, δ13C, and δ15N) analyses

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Cattle (Bos taurus) is the primary and the most dominant domesticated species in the Dutch Neolithic. The aim of this article is to explore the nature of cattle herding and whether the first archaeologically visible appearance of domestic cattle corresponds to milk exploitation in the Dutch Delta in the fourth millennium BC. We address these two issues using osteoarchaelogical and stable isotope analyses (δ18O, δ13C, and δ15N) including, the mortality profile, the seasonality of birth, pasture usage, and human dietary practices in Schipluiden, as the key site for understanding the nature of the Neolithic way of life in the Netherlands with being the most well-preserved and well-documented assemblage in the region. Based on sequential δ18O and δ13C isotopic analyses on seven third molars, cattle birthing season is distributed in five and a half months of the year. The carbon values from bulk collagen and bioapatite show that the majority of cattle were grazed in an open C3-dominant environment. Four individuals show the possible contribution of C13-depleted plants possibly from dense forests in their diet. Approximately, 70% of the cattle were culled before reaching second year with a peak at 6 to 15 months and only 30% survived well beyond this age. These evidence are consistent with the “Post-Lactation” model and a cattle husbandry towards both meat and milk exploitation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)58
Number of pages2
JournalTijdschrift voor Mediterrane Archeologie
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • The Netherlands
  • Neolithic
  • cattle dairying
  • zooarchaeology
  • Stable isotope analysis

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