A new study published in Nature this week reports evidence that cheese-making occurred on Neolithic Linearbandkeramik sites in central Europe as early as 7,500 years ago.
A modern cheese maker illustrates the cheese strainer concept. Ratha Grimes
Domestication of cattle and goats occurred about 10,000 years ago, and, so the theory goes, people began exploiting goats and cattle for wool, milk and blood about a thousand years after that. Until this century, however, the only evidence for ancient Neolithic people making products like cheese and yogurt was perforated pottery, that looked a lot like modern day cheese strainers.
Using chemical analysis of microscopic residues inside pots, scholars have been able to identify the milk fats left behind by cheese production: and in the new article by Salque and colleagues published in Nature today, they connect the dots, discovering milk residues inside the perforated pottery.
Read more about RP Evershed's Paleodetectives (Bristol University)
Salque M, Bogucki P, Pyzel J, Sobkowiak-Tabaka I, Grygiel R, Szmyt M, and Evershed RP. 2012. Earliest evidence for cheese making in the sixth millennium BC in northern Europe. Nature: in press.