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Friday, December 14, 2012

Evidence of world's 'oldest' cheese-making found

12 December 2012 

Evidence of world's 'oldest' cheese-making found

By Hannah Briggs
BBC Food




Scientists may be one step closer to uncovering the origins of cheese-making, as evidence thousands of years old has been uncovered. What would a Neolithic cheese have tasted like?

Truly an ancient art, no-one really knows exactly when humans began making cheese.

But now milk extracts have been identified on 34 perforated pottery vessels or "cheese-strainers", which date back 7,500 years that have been excavated in Poland.

It is unambiguous evidence for cheese-making in northern Europe during Neolithic times, scientists believe, and the findings have been published in the scientific journal Nature.

"We analysed some fragments of pottery from the region of Kuyavia [Poland] pierced with small holes that looked like modern cheese-strainers," says Melanie Salque, a postgraduate student at the University of Bristol's Department of Chemistry.

"They had been thought to be cheese-strainers because of the peculiar presence of holes on the surface.

"However, they could well have been flame covers, chafing dishes, honey strainers or used for beer-making, to strain out chaff.

Ms Salque and her team then analysed lipid residues on the vessels and detected milk residues, which they say provides a link to cheese-making.

"The evidence was stunning," explains Professor Richard Evershed, of Bristol University.

"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?"

Although scientists have not identified a compound of cheese they have put together a convincing case.

Is it possible that prehistoric people were making cheese much earlier than 7,500 years ago? (...)

Full article: http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/0/20695015

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