Fifth-century BC was a busy time for the development of civilization, and a new study released this month in the journal Nature show that the same Neolithic civilizations that invented the wheel also began turning milk into cheese.
According to a report by National Public Radio, archeologists long suspected that sieve-like pots discovered in the 1970s in northern Europe had been involved in some sort of food preparations, but new technology helped spur researchers by analyzing residue found in the clay.
The results of the analysis found that the residue had a chemical signature that matched cow’s milk. While milk was – and still is – one of nature’s “ultimate superfoods,” Mark Thomas, an evolutionary geneticist at University College London, pointed to one big problem facing Neolithic Europeans: they were lactose intolerant.
Turning milk into cheese removed a lot of sugar of milk, making it possible for these early farmers to get their daily dose of dairy without intestinal distress.
"Milk gave us something — some extra edge in terms of survival," says Thomas.
Read, “Archaeologists Find Ancient Evidence Of Cheese-Making” or click the audio above to listen to the report. The study can also be accessed here.
This isn’t the first discovery linking dairy with ancient civilizations. Earlier this summer, researchers found that prehistoric people in the African Sahara turned to domestic dairy productions more than 7,000 years ago. Archeologists have also dated domestic dairy production in Turkey (9,000 years ago), eastern Europe (8,000 years ago), and Britain (6,000 years ago). Read more here.