Lactase persistence and the early Cultural History of Europe  
line decor

Archaeological research laboratoryThe Archaeological research laboratory (ARL) is part of the Department of Archaeology and Classical Studies at Stockholm University and is one of the university’s leading research departments. Interdisciplinary studies within the field of prehistoric diet have been the main research focus. The laboratory is not only unique in Scandinavia, it is also unique as an archaeological facility in the world. One of the laboratory’s main objectives is to integrate cultural studies and high tech scientific analysis. Recently a new Centre for Evolutionary Cultural Studies was established at ARL and the director of this centre is one of the node leaders for the EU-financed project Cultaptation: dynamics and adaptation in human cumulative culture..


ESR11 Isotopic evidence from weaning
Prof. Kerstin Lidén

The life history segment that has the largest effect on overall survival in an ancient human population is the segment up until sexual maturity. Since this segment is unusually long in humans, compared to other mammals, child survival is crucial in terms of human population growth. What we see in northern Europe at the onset of the Neolithic, which in northern Europe is the introduction of pastoralism, is a fast population growth. There have been several explanations for this population growth but we will focus on child survival and the introduction of a new weaning food, viz. dairy products. We will study lactation length and weaning in the children that actually survived these processes, rather than those children that might have died due to the lack of weaning, that has previously been studied. By the use of deciduous teeth in older children we are able to track these processes as different stable nitrogen isotope signatures. We will address the questions of whether: There was a reduction in lactation length at the onset of the Neolithic? This triggered shorter intervals of pregnancy causing a population growth? Children survive even though they are not being lactated due to a new and efficient weaning food, or is there a double effect? In order to fully understand the rapid spread of the ability to utilize milk products it is important to focus on the ultimate adaptive value of this ability viz. child survival. This project will be guided by ER1 and integrate with ESR10, providing data for ESR12. Like ESR10 it will contrast direct data from human bone with and evidence from artefacts (ESR7, ESR8, ESR9) and report to ESR12 and ESR2.


Prof. Kerstin Lidén (Professor of Archaeological Science) was a research fellow at the Swedish Royal Academy of Science. Her research has been focused on diet, diet shifts and their social implications, using stable isotopes, aDNA and cultural history. She is part of the Swedish Research Council’s evaluation committees for Archaeology and History as well as of the Swedish jury for EURYI. She is a member of the Swedish Royal Academy’s Research Policy Committee, RIFO (society for members of the Swedish parliament and scientists) and the Swedish INQUA (International Union for Quaternary Research). 

Dr. Sven Isaksson is docent in archaeological science and his research focuses on organic remains in ceramics, with an emphasis on lipids. Since his dissertation on food and rank in Early Medieval time, he has specialized in integrating cultural history and scientific analysis.

Dr. Gunilla Eriksson wrote her thesis titled Norm and difference. Stone Age dietary practice in the Baltic region in the field of archaeological science. Her current research focuses specifically on the transition from hunting-gathering to farming. 

Magnus Enquist is Professor in Ethology with a special interest in the evolution of behaviour, behavioural mechanisms and the evolution of culture, He is director of the Centre for Evolutionary Cultural Studies.


The ARL houses facilities for paleoethnobotanical work, metallurgy and soil sciences. It has a specifically designated laboratory for work with aDNA and a laboratory designated specifically for collagen extraction. All isotope analyses are performed in labs within walking distance from ARL. The ARL is equipped with SEM, XRD, AAS, GCMS and equipped with necessary utensils for handling samples prior to analysis.


1. Lidén K, Eriksson G, Walking on the Wild side. (Eds: Parker Pearson M, Larsson M) (In press) British Archaeological review.

2. Linderholm A, Hedenstierna Jonson C, Svensk O, Lidén K, Diet and status in Birka. Analysis of stable isotopes and grave goods. (In press) Antiquity

3. Lidén K, Eriksson G, Nordqvist B, Götherström A, Bendixen E, ”The wet and the wild followed by the dry and the tame” – or did they occur at the same time? (2004) Antiquity 78:23-33