Analysis of Neolithic pottery shards shows that in Northern Europe, where poor soils and little sunlight made primitive farming extremely difficult, people may have been making cheese in places like Poland as far back as 9,000 years ago.
Examination of perforated barrels not only found the presence of the dairy protein casein, suggesting that curd-enriched products were made from raw milk, but also casein from cows, goats, and sheep, suggesting they were making a type of La Tur long before most other forms of modern food production have reached the continent at some point.
Common arguments for eliminating dairy products from the diet stem from the idea that we have only been consuming dairy for a few thousand years and that no other mammal consumes lactose after childhood.
Instead of a few, new research points to herd dairy consumption as far back as the sixth millennium BCE — or 8,000 years ago.
Researchers at the University of York point out that lactose intolerance would have been common in almost all European populations at the time, but the processing methods still used today to make yoghurt, kefir and cheese were used to overcome this intolerance. vanquish.
“Although previous research has shown that dairy products were widely available in some European regions during this period, here we have clear evidence for a diversified dairy herd, including cattle, sheep and goats, for the first time from the analysis of ceramics,” said Dr Harry Robson of the Department of Archeology at York University.
Robson and his colleagues, along with a team from the University of Krakow, looked at a Neolithic site in Poland called Sławęcinek, which shows activity from about 3600 BCE.
Small numbers of vessels had a white mineral residue which, when examined through proteomic and lipid analyses, revealed evidence of cattle and caprid dairy farming, probably both sheep and goats.
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“The dominance of casein…should indicate that the residues formed on these vessels are a result of the presence of casein-rich curd products, rather than milk or whey products,” the authors write in the journal Royal Society Open. Science.
“Cheese is mainly made up of curd proteins, while the whey proteins and most of the lactose remain in the whey part when the curd solidifies.”
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This shows that the clever old Poles managed to bypass their own genetic lactose intolerance to add a sustainable and protein-rich food source to their diet.
Today, people who are lactose intolerant can still eat well-aged cheeses, thanks to the removal of lactose, both during the cheesemaking and maturing process, though they probably don’t realize that this knowledge is as old as pottery.
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