Secondary products revolution

Andrew Sherratt's model of a secondary products revolution involved a widespread and broadly contemporaneous set of innovations in Old World farming. The use of domestic animals for primary carcass products (meat) was broadened from the 4th-3rd millennia BCE (c. Middle Chalcolithic) to include exploitation for renewable 'secondary' products: milk, wool, traction (the use of animals to drag ploughs in agriculture), riding and pack transport.[1]

The SPR model incorporates two key elements:

  1. the discovery and diffusion of secondary products innovations
  2. their systematic application, leading to a transformation of Eurasian economy and society

Many of these innovations first appeared in the Near East during the fourth millennium BCE and spread to Europe and the rest of Asia soon afterwards. They appeared in Europe by the beginning of the third millennium BCE.[2] These innovations became available in Europe due to the westwards diffusion of new species (horse, donkey), breeds (e.g. woolly sheep), technology (wheel, ard) and technological knowledge (e.g. ploughing). Their adoption can be understood in terms of pastoralism, plough agriculture and animal-based transport facilitating marginal agricultural colonisation and settlement nucleation. Ultimately it was revolutionary in terms of both origins and consequences. [3]

However, both the dating and significance of the archaeological evidence cited by Sherratt (and thus the validity of the model) have been questioned by several archaeologists. The dangers of dating the innovations on the basis of evidence such as iconography and waterlogged organic remains with restricted chronological and geographical availability have been pointed out. Sherratt has himself acknowledged that such dates provide a terminus ante quem for the invention of milking and ploughing.[4]

Direct evidence for how domestic animals were exploited in later prehistoric Europe has grown substantially, in quantity and diversity, since 1981. Initially the concepts of the SPR were tested by analysing the appearance of certain artefact types (e.g. ploughs, wheeled vehicles). By the middle 1980s the most common means of testing the model derived from the more ubiquitous faunal (zooarchaeological) assemblages, through which mortality patterns, herd management and traction-related arthropathies were utilized to confirm or reject the SPR model. Many zooarchaeological studies in both the Near East and Europe have confirmed the veracity of the model.[5]

However the detection of milk residues in ceramic vessels is now considered the most promising means of detecting the origins of milking. Discovery of such residues has pushed back the earliest date for milking into the Neolithic. A study of more than 2,200 pottery vessels from sites in the Near East and Southeastern Europe indicated that milking had its origins in northwestern Anatolia. The lowland, coastal region around the Sea of Marmara favoured cattle-keeping. Pottery from these sites dating from 6500–5000 BCE showed milk being processed into dairy products.[6] Milk residues had already been found in vessels from the British Neolithic, but farming arrived in Britain late (c. 4000 BCE).[7]

The seeming contradiction between the zooarchaeological and residue studies appears to be a matter of scale. The residues indicate that milking may have played a role in domestic animal exploitation from the later Neolithic. The zooarchaeological studies indicate that there was a massive change in the scale of such production strategies during the Chalcolithic and Bronze Age.


  1. ^ A. Sherratt, Plough and pastoralism: aspects of the secondary products revolution, in Pattern of the Past: Studies in honour of David Clarke, edited by I. Hodder, G. Isaac and N. Hammond (Cambridge University Press: Cambridge 1981), pp. 261–305.
  2. ^ Haskel J. Greenfield, The origins of milk and wool production in the Old World: A zooarchaeological perspective from the Central Balkans, Current Anthropology vol. 29, no 4 (1988), pp. 573-593; Haskel J. Greenfield, A reconsideration of the secondary products revolution: 20 years of research in the central Balkans in The Zooarchaeology of Milk and Fats (Proceedings of the 9th ICAZ Conference, Durham 2002), edited by Jacqui Mulville and Alan Outram (Oxford: Oxbow Press 2005), pp. 14-31.
  3. ^ For Ancient Egypt and neighbouring cultures concerning advances related to the Secondary Products Revolution see Heike Wilde, Interkultureller Austausch Ägyptens mit Palästina an der Schwelle zur Urbanisierung - Globalisierung im orientalischen Chalkolithikum? in Goettinger Miszellen 194 (2003), pp 79-102. For the mediterranean Region: V. Isaakidou, Ploughing with cows: Knossos and the Secondary Products Revolution, in Animals in the Neolithic of Britain and Europe, edited by D. Serjeantson and D. Field (Oxbow Books: Oxford 2006), pp. 95–112.
  4. ^ V. Isaakidou, Ploughing with cows: Knossos and the Secondary Products Revolution, in Animals in the Neolithic of Britain and Europe, edited by D. Serjeantson and D. Field (Oxbow Books: Oxford 2006), pp. 95–112.
  5. ^ Haskel J. Greenfield, The origins of milk and wool production in the Old World: A zooarchaeological perspective from the Central Balkans, Current Anthropology vol. 29, no 4 (1988), pp. 573-593; Haskel J. Greenfield, A reconsideration of the secondary products revolution: 20 years of research in the central Balkans in The Zooarchaeology of Milk and Fats (Proceedings of the 9th ICAZ Conference, Durham 2002), edited by Jacqui Mulville and Alan Outram (Oxford: Oxbow Press 2005), pp. 14-31; V. Isaakidou, Ploughing with cows: Knossos and the Secondary Products Revolution, in Animals in the Neolithic of Britain and Europe, edited by D. Serjeantson and D. Field (Oxbow Books: Oxford 2006), pp. 95–112.
  6. ^ R.P. Evershed et al., Earliest date for milk use in the Near East and southeastern Europe linked to cattle herding, Nature, vol. 455 (25 September 2008), pp. 528-31.
  7. ^ M.S. Copley, R. Berstan, A.J. Mukherjee, S.N. Dudd, V. Straker, S. Payne, R.P. Evershed, Dairying in antiquity: III: Evidence from absorbed lipid residues dating to the British Neolithic, Journal of Archaeological Science, vol. 32 (2005), pp. 523–546.
Andrew Sherratt

Andrew Sherratt (8 May 1946 – 24 February 2006) was an English archaeologist, one of the most influential of his generation. He was best known for the idea of the Secondary Products Revolution.

Ard (plough)

The ard, ard plough, or scratch plough is a simple light plough without a mouldboard. It is symmetrical on either side of its line of draft and is fitted with a symmetrical share that traces a shallow furrow but does not invert the soil. It began to be replaced in most of Europe by the carruca turnplough from the 7th century.

In its simplest form it resembles a hoe, consisting of a draft-pole (either composite or a single piece) pierced with a nearly vertical, wooden, spiked head (or stock) which is dragged through the soil by draft animals and very rarely by people. The ard-head is at one end a stilt (handle) for steering and at the other a share (cutting blade) which gouges the surface ground. More sophisticated models have a composite pole, where the section attached to the head is called the draft-beam, and the share may be made of stone or iron. Some have a cross-bar for handles or two separate stilts for handles (two-handled ard). The share comes in two basic forms: a socket share slipped over the nose of the ard-head; and the tang share fitted into a groove where it is held with a clamp on the wooden head. Additionally, a slender protruding chisel (foreshare) can be fitted over the top of the mainshare.

Baden culture

The Baden culture, c. 3600–2800 BC, is a Chalcolithic culture found in Central and Southeast Europe. It is known from Moravia (Czech Republic), Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, northern Serbia, western Romania and eastern Austria. Imports of Baden pottery have also been found in Germany and Switzerland (Arbon-Bleiche III), where it could be dated by dendrochronology.

Bank barrow

A bank barrow, sometimes referred to as a barrow-bank, ridge barrow, or ridge mound, is a type of tumulus first identified by O.G.S. Crawford in 1938.

In the United Kingdom, they take the form of a long, sinuous, parallel-sided mound, approximately uniform in height and width along its length, and usually flanked by ditches on either side. They may be the result of a single phase of construction, or be the result of the addition of one or more linear extensions to the bank of a pre-existing barrow. Although burials have been found within the mound, no burial chambers as such have been identified in bank barrows. These ancient monuments are of middle Neolithic date.

There exist fewer than 10 bank barrows in the United Kingdom; examples may be found at

Maiden Castle, Broadmayne and Martin's Down in Dorset;

Long Low near Wetton in Staffordshire.

Cerny culture

The Cerny culture (French: La Culture de Cerny, German: Cerny-Kultur) is a Neolithic culture in France that dates to the second half of the 5th millennium B.C. and that is particularly prevalent in the Paris Basin. It is characterized by monumental earth mounds, known as enclosures of the Passy type. The term is derived from the "Parc aux Bœufs" in Cerny in the department of Essonne who authorized the name.

Cortaillod culture

The Cortaillod culture is one of several archaeologically defined cultures belonging to the Neolithic period of Switzerland. The Cortaillod Culture in the west of the region is contemporary with the Pfyn Culture

in the east and dates from between 3900-3500 BC. The Classic Cortaillod Culture of the western Alpine foreland and the Early Cortaillod Culture of central Switzerland pre-date this at 4300-3900 BC.

Evidence such as higher frequencies of dog bones and pendants made from dog metapodials suggests a special relationship between dog and man during the later part of this period in the western part and the early Horgen culture in the eastern part of the Alpine foreland.


Cursus monuments are Neolithic structures which represent some of the oldest prehistoric monumental structures of the Islands of Britain and Ireland. Relics found within them show that they were built between 3400 and 3000 BC.

Superficially resembling ditches or trenches, they range in length from 50 yards (46 m) to almost 6 miles (9.7 km) and the distance between the parallel earthworks can be up to 100 yards (91 m). Banks at the terminal ends enclose the cursus. Over fifty have been identified via aerial photography while many others have doubtless been obliterated by farming and other subsequent landscaping activities.Examples include the four cursuses at Rudston in Yorkshire, that at Fornham All Saints in Suffolk, the Cleaven Dyke in Perthshire and the Dorset cursus. A notable example is the Stonehenge Cursus, within sight of the more famous stone circle, on land belonging to The National Trust's Stonehenge Landscape.

Dudești culture

The Dudeşti culture is a farming/herding culture that occupied part of Romania in the 6th millennium BC, typified by semi-subterranean habitations (Zemlyanki) on the edges of low plateaus. This culture contributed to the origin of both the subsequent Hamangia culture and the Boian culture. It was named after Dudeşti, a quarter in the southeast of Bucharest.

First Temperate Neolithic

The First Temperate Neolithic (FTN) is an archaeological horizon consisting of the earliest archaeological cultures of Neolithic Southeastern Europe, dated to c. 6400–5100 BCE. The cultures of the FTN were the first to practice agriculture in temperate Europe, which required significant innovations in farming technology previously adapted to a mediterranean climate.The constituent cultures of the FTN are:

the Starčevo–Kőrös–Criș culture, encompassing:the Starčevo culture, c. 6200–5200 BCE, Serbia, Bosnia, eastern Croatia and western Hungary;

the Kőrös culture, c. 6400–5100 BCE, eastern Hungary;

the Criş culture, c. 6400–5200 BCE, Romania;the Karanova I/II culture, c. 6300–5100 BCE, central and southern Bulgaria;

the Macedonian First Neolithic, c. 6600–5300 BCE, Macedonia;

the Poljanica group, c. 6300–5200 BCE, northeast Bulgaria;

and the West Bulgarian Painted Ware culture, c. 6200–5200 BCE, western Bulgaria.

Hamangia culture

The Hamangia culture is a Late Neolithic archaeological culture of Dobruja (Romania and Bulgaria) between the Danube and the Black Sea and Muntenia in the south. It is named after the site of Baia-Hamangia, discovered in 1952 along Golovița Lake.

Horgen culture

The Horgen culture is one of several archaeological cultures belonging to the Neolithic period of Switzerland. The Horgen culture may derive from the Pfyn culture and early Horgen pottery is similar to the earlier Cortaillod culture pottery of Twann, Switzerland. It is named for one of the principal sites, in Horgen, Switzerland.

Karanovo culture

The Karanovo culture is a neolithic culture (Karanovo I-III ca. 62nd to 55th centuries BC) named after the Bulgarian village of Karanovo (Караново, Sliven Province 42°30′41″N 25°54′54″E). The site at Karanovo itself was a hilltop settlement of 18 buildings, housing some 100 inhabitants. The site was inhabited more or less continuously from the early 7th to the early 2nd millennia BC.

The layers at Karanovo are employed as a chronological system for Balkans prehistory.

Körös culture

The Körös culture/Criş culture is a Neolithic archaeological culture in Central Europe that was named after the river Körös in eastern Hungary. The same river has the name Criș in Romania, hence the name Criş culture. The 2 variants of the river name are used for the same archaeological culture in the 2 regions. The Criș culture survived from about 5800 to 5300 BC. It is related to the neighboring Starčevo culture and is included within a larger grouping known as the Starčevo–Körös–Criş culture.

Narva culture

Narva culture or eastern Baltic (c. 5300 to 1750 BC) was a European Neolithic archaeological culture found in present-day Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Kaliningrad Oblast (former East Prussia), and adjacent portions of Poland, Belarus and Russia. A successor of the Mesolithic Kunda culture, Narva culture continued up to the start of the Bronze Age. The technology was that of hunter-gatherers. The culture was named after the Narva River in Estonia.

Round barrow

A round barrow is a type of tumulus and is one of the most common types of archaeological monuments. Although concentrated in Europe, they are found in many parts of the world, probably because of their simple construction and universal purpose.In Britain, most of them were built between 2200BC and 1100BC. . This was the Late Neolithic period to the Late Bronze Age. Later Iron Age barrows were mostly different, and sometimes square.

Timber circle

In archaeology, timber circles are circular arrangements of wooden posts interpreted as being either complexes of freestanding totem poles or as the supports for large circular buildings.

Tisza culture

The Tisza culture is a Neolithic archaeological culture of the Alföld plain in modern-day Hungary, Western Romania, Eastern Slovakia and Ukrainian Zakarpattia Oblast in Central Europe. The culture is dated to the 5th and 4th millennia BCE.

Tor enclosure

A tor enclosure is a prehistoric monument found in the southwestern part of Great Britain. These monuments emerged around 4000 BC in the early


Windmill Hill culture

The Windmill Hill culture was a name given to a people inhabiting southern Britain, in particular in the Salisbury Plain area close to Stonehenge, c. 3000 BC. They were an agrarian Neolithic people; their name comes from Windmill Hill, a causewayed enclosure. Together with another Neolithic tribe from East Anglia, a tribe whose worship involved stone circles, it is thought that they were responsible for the earliest work on the Stonehenge site.

The material record left by these people includes large circular hill-top enclosures, causewayed enclosures, long barrows, leaf-shaped arrowheads, and polished stone axes. They raised cattle, sheep, pigs, and dogs, and grew wheat and mined flints.

Since the term was first coined by archaeologists, further excavation and analysis has indicated that it consisted of several discrete cultures such as the Hembury and the Abingdon cultures; and that "Windmill Hill culture" is too general a term.


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