Hard cheese: upland pastoralism in the Italian Bronze and Iron Ages
Summer Farms - Seasonal Exploitation of the Uplands from Prehistory to the Present - John R. Collis
Mark Pearce [+]
University of Nottingham
By moving livestock to summer farms, fodder at the home base is saved but the milk and other animal products produced during the animals’ absence are no longer immediately available to those left at the home base. In this paper I shall explore the economic implications of the use of summer farms, in particular the effect on carrying capacity, on the number of livestock which can be over-wintered, and on the use of the milk produced while the animals are at the summer grazing lands. I then explore archaeological evidence from the Bronze and Iron Ages of the Italian uplands (Apennines and Alps). I argue that the production of hard cheese, which converts milk into an easily conservable and transportable commodity, is key to the expansion of summer farms in the Bronze Age of Italy. Cheese production is an essential part of models for the pastoral use of Mediterranean uplands in prehistory but it is commonly held that in the Alps the production of hard cheese only begins in the Middle Ages. I examine the literary and archaeological evidence for the prehistoric production of hard cheese and argue that its production in prehistory is the most parsimonious explanation for the summer use of high mountain pastures and thus for the origins of the Alpwirtschaft economy in the southern Alps.