Cheese-making began more than 7,500 years ago, according to a recent discovery by researchers. Chemical evidence of milk-fat residues found in ancient pottery indicates that early farmers in Europe began including cheese in their diet when the learned how to domesticate cows and use the livestock to garner milk, Live Science notes.
University of Bristol scientists led by geochemist Richard Evershed tested the old clay pots found during an excavation along the Vistula River in Poland, according to the Wall Street Journal. The scientists believe that the cooking utensils had been as strainers to separate curds and whey by early cheese lovers.
The clay pots have long posed unanswered questions for archeologists. The unique carbon isotopes of milk in the trace amounts of fatty acids that soaked into the ceramic sieves had finally led researchers to conclude that the joy of eating cheese began long before many realized.
Dr. Evershed had this to say about the cheese-making conclusion:
“It is a no-brainer. They have to be cheese strainers.”
Scientists are still not exactly sure where or when cheese-making began but now know the process dates back centuries. The unglazed clay pots have offered the most decisive evidence to date that early farmers possessed the basic biotechnology necessary to turn cow’s milk into a tasty dairy treat.
Cheese historians speculate that the first hunk of cheese was likely a watery and soft creation, resembling a fromage fraise or cottage cheese. Early cheese was probably curdled naturally by bacteria commonly found in a cow’s teats.
Archeologist and Associate Princeton University Dean Peter Bogucki had this to say about the efforts of the international research team he participated with on the clay pot research:
“Making cheese is a particularly efficient way to exploit the nutritional benefits of milk, without becoming ill because of the lactose.”