Early cheese making may have helped lactose-intolerant farmers spread

Ars Technica » Scientific Method 2018-09-14

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Enlarge / The archaeological site of Pokrovnik during excavation with the modern village of Dalmatia, Croatia, in the background. (credit: Andrew M.T. Moore)

If you needed another reason not to lick the artifacts on your next trip to the museum, archaeologists have you covered; they’ve found chemical traces of 7,000-year-old cheese still stuck on ceramic containers from two Neolithic farming villages in Croatia.

This find is nothing like the 3,200-year-old chunk of cheese recently found in an Egyptian tomb; after 7,000 years, all that’s left is a microscopic residue on the inner surface of pottery fragments, once used by the farmers who settled just east of the Adriatic Sea to raise crops, cattle, goats, and sheep. But that faint residue of long-gone cheese is older than the Egyptian cheese by about 4,000 years, and archaeologists say it’s the earliest direct evidence of cheese production ever found.

“The cheese would likely have been a firm, softer cheese, something like what we today have as a farmer's cheese or Feta,” Pennsylvania State University archaeologist Sarah McClure told Ars Technica.

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