Stone Age people were making cheese over 7,000 years ago
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent and i. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; four times highly commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigations into the tobacco industry. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Wednesday 12 December 2012
Stone Age people living in northern Europe were making cheese more than 7,000 years ago according to scientists who believe they have found the first direct evidence of dairy processing.
Chemical traces of processed milk have been found on pieces of perforated pottery unearthed at an archaeological site in Poland dating to two millennia before people began to build first monument at Stone Henge in Britain.
Archaeologists had suggested more than 30 years ago when the shards were first discovered in the Polish region of Kuyavia that the perforated pots may have been used as stone-age cheese strainers to separate the solid milk curds from the liquid whey.
A detailed chemical analysis of the inner surfaces of the pots has now confirmed the pottery has a thin residue of fatty acid deposits showing that the sieves were indeed used for processing milk into cheese.
The discovery shows that prehistoric people must have experimented with ways of preserving milk far earlier than previously thought. Making cheese was important because it could be transported more easily than milk and could also be eaten more easily by people who would otherwise not be able to digest the lactose in milk.
“Before this study it was not clear that cattle were used for their milk in Northern Europe around 7,000 years ago,” said Melanie Salque of the University of Bristol, who helped to conduct the study published in the journal Nature.
“The presence of milk residues in sieves – which look like modern cheese strainers – constitute the earliest direct evidence for cheese making. So far, early evidence for cheese making were mostly iconographic, that is to say murals showing milk processing which date to several millennia later than the cheese strainers,” Ms Salque said.
Peter Bogucki, one of the archaeologists who first suggested that the perforated pots much have been cheese strainers, said that being able to process milk was a key nutritional development at a time when most people would not have been able to digest the lactose in milk.
“Making cheese allowed them to reduce the lactose content of milk, and we know that at that time, most of the humans were not tolerant to lactose. Making cheese is a particularly efficient way to exploit the nutritional benefits of milk, without becoming ill because of the lactose,” Dr Bogucki said.
- 1 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
- 2 Fifa corruption: Europe plots to stage an 'alternative World Cup' in place of Russia 2018
- 3 How much sex should I be having?
- 4 Jaden Smith wears gender fluid dress to high school prom with Hunger Games actress
- 5 Live football streaming sites Rojadirecta, LiveTV and Drakulastream all completely banned from UK browsers
Caitlyn Jenner, formerly Bruce Jenner, reveals new look on Vanity Fair cover
Russian military jets and US destroyer clash in Black Sea 'posing danger to stability'
Ed Miliband returns to the backbenches but it's all a bit awkward as he tries to avoid eye-contact with fellow Labour MPs
Photographer who performed naked shoot in China's Forbidden City sparks outrage
Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history
£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an intermediate help de...
£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This long established manufactu...
£70000 - £90000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Financial Reporting Manager i...
£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A young, vibrant and growing co...