TheNorth-WesternMediterraneanwitnessed a rapid expansion of farmers and their livestock during the EarlyNeolithic period. Depending on the region, cattle played a more or less important role in these communities; however how these animalswere exploited for theirmilk is not clear. Herewe investigate calfmortality to determine indirectly whether cattle dairying was practised by Early Neolithic stock herders. Age-at-death (AtD) frequencies for calves from two sites: Trasano (Italy, Impressa culture: 7–6th millennium BC) and La Draga (Spain, Cardial culture: 6th millennium BC) were estimated from dental eruption and development stages, and measurements of un-fused post-cranial material. Adult age classes are well represented in the dental AtD frequencies and were interpreted as the result of the slaughter of prime beef and retired lactating females. For calves aged less than 12 months, there was no statistical difference in the AtD frequencies based on dental and post-cranial material indicating that the data is a good representation of the mortality patterns of calves, either natural or deliberate. At both sites there was a strong mortality peak at 3–6months in all AtD profiles. At La Draga, this peak was clearly differentiated from a peak at 0–1month, which can be interpreted neonatal mortality possible a consequence of the birthing season coinciding with the end of winter during more humid climatic conditions that at present. The deliberate slaughter peak around 3–6months is discussed, and we propose that stock herders controlled the mortality of infant classes, possibly in response to variable external environment pressures while maintaining animal productivity.
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