Stone Age hunter-gatherers in Europe may have been trading with settled farmers as long as 7,000 years ago -- acquiring pigs to supplement their hauls of wild boar, scientists said Tuesday.
A study in the journal Nature Communications claims to provide the first evidence of live animal trade between the indigenous, nomadic Ertebolle hunters of northern Europe and more advanced, settled farmers who originally came from the Fertile Crescent -- today's Turkey, Syria and Iraq.
"Hunters and farmers were not only acquainted with each other but even traded live animals," said a statement from Germany's Kiel University, which contributed to the study.
Hunter-gatherers and farmers co-existed in northern Europe from about 5,500 to 4,200 BC.
The hunter-gatherers lived off seals and wild boar on the western Baltic coast, while the farmers cultivated crops and livestock south of the Elbe River that runs through central Europe.
The two groups are believed to have made sporadic contact, as suggested by excavated axes and pottery resembling those of the farmers at hunter-gatherer settlements, but the nature and extent of the exchanges remain a mystery.