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Posted Dec 30, 2012, 5:41 pm
Cheese lovers, this one goes out for you — your delicacy of choice was considered so critical to humankind that its production appears to date back 7,500 years, according to a breakthrough study published in December in Nature.
Researchers tested strange-looking, sieve-like pottery fragments from Poland to determine their use. The options were cheese, beer, or honey — with cheese the believed winner, reported BBC News.
Scientists did not find cheese evidence per se, but they did identify traces of fat and milk extracts in the 7,500-year-old suspiciously cheesy-looking vessels, said the Associated Press.
Richard Evershed at the University of Bristol and his colleagues examined 34 fragments and says they are highly unlikely to have served any other purpose, said BBC.
"If you then put together the fact that there are milk fats in with the holes in the vessels, along with the size of the vessels and knowing what we know about how milk products are processed, what other milk product could it be?" he asked.
There is a "very compelling forensic argument that this was connected to cheese," AP cited Evershed as saying. "There aren't many other dairy processes where you would need to strain," he added.
The presence of cheese production would certainly up the ante for our Neolithic ancestors, according to Paul Kindstedt, a professor of nutrition and food sciences at the University of Vermont, who was not involved in Evershod's research.
He said it marks a major development and agreed that the evidence lines up: "It's almost inconceivable that the milk fat residues in the sieves were from anything else but cheese," he told AP.
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Given that our Neolithic ancestors were lactose intolerant, it makes sense they would invest serious time and effort into making happily-digestible cheeses, BBC said, citing scientists.
Of course, technically, we could find out the ancient pottery-milk-fat processing unit had other uses.
But this latest discovery has many scientists throwing their weight behind a truly historic taste for cheese.