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Study confirms prehistoric cheese-making

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Chunks of Swiss cheese. Photo via Wikipedia and the Creative Commons.

Researchers analyze fatty acids extracted from pottery found in northern Europe

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Along with being a choice gourmet item for foodies, cheese has been a staple in many cultures around the world for centuries, as a transportable and digestible dairy product.

New research shows that cheese-making probably pre-dates previous estimates by quite a while. After analyzing fatty acids extracted from unglazed ceramic pottery, scientists say prehistoric people in northern Europe were making cheese as long as 7,000 years ago.

“Before this study, it was not clear that cattle were used for their milk in Northern Europe around 7,000 years ago,” said Mélanie Salque, a PhD student from the University of Bristol and one of the authors of the paper. “However, the presence of the sieves in the ceramic assemblage of the sites was thought to be a proof that milk and even cheese was produced at these sites<” Salque said. “Of course, these sieves could have been used for straining all sorts of things, such as curds from whey, meat from stock or honeycombs from honey. We decided to test the cheese-making hypothesis by analysing the lipids trapped into the ceramic fabric of the sieves,” she said. Continue reading

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