Dietary continuation in the southern Levant: a Neolithic-Chalcolithic perspective through organic residue analysis

Rivka Chasan, Cynthianne Spiteri, Danny Rosenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Foodways in the late prehistoric southern Levant evolved alongside changes in the social and economic organization of the communities occupying the region. In this paper, we present a comprehensive study of culinary practices from the Pottery Neolithic to the Late Chalcolithic period (ca. 6,400–3,800 cal. BC). The research examines changes and continuity in food-related organic residues preserved within ceramic and stone vessels along diachronic and interregional climatic lines in Israel. The results of lipid biomarker and compound-specific isotope analyses, together with the faunal and botanic records, indicate that while this timespan witnessed significant social and economic developments (including most notably the introduction of pottery and later copper metallurgy), there was a fairly uniform diet. Dietary preferences included meat, originating mainly from domestic ruminants, and cultivated vegetal resources, usually regardless of chronological, cultural, or environmental differences. Some chronological and potentially environmental variation was noted in the use of dairy products, which chemical residue analysis detected from samples dating to the Middle Chalcolithic period onwards in semi-arid regions. The overarching general uniformity in diet during the Pottery Neolithic and Chalcolithic periods suggests that the timespan was one long economic continuum separated by distinct cultural entities sharing a core dietary tradition. The socio-economic processes of the timespan had no significant effect on what people ate and how they used vessels to prepare and consume food.

Original languageEnglish
Article number49
JournalArchaeological and Anthropological Sciences
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the Israel Antiquities Authority, F. Klimscha, E.C.M. van den Brink, T. Levy, Y. Garfinkel, S. Bar, U. Galili, R. Be?eri, D. Shalem, Y. Abadi-Reiss, and D. Varga for allowing R. Chasan to study the organic residues from pottery found during their excavations for her PhD research.

Funding Information:
The Tel Tsaf research project is generously supported by the Israel Science Foundation (ISF grant 2016/17), the Rust Family Foundation, the Irene Levi-Sala CARE Foundation, the Eurasia Department of the German Archaeological Institute (DAI) in Berlin, and the Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.


  • Chalcolithic
  • Culinary practices
  • Lipids
  • Organic residue analysis
  • Pottery Neolithic
  • Southern Levant

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Anthropology
  • Archaeology


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