The discovery of traces of dairy fat in Neolithic ceramic fragments has led to suggestions that people may have been making cheese in Europe for up to 7,500 years.
Experts have heralded the discovered pierced potsherds at early Neolithic sites in Europe as early “cheese-strainers.”
“The presence of abundant milk fat in these specialised vessels, comparable in form to modern cheese strainers, provides compelling evidence for the vessels having being used to separate fat-rich milk curds from the lactose-containing whey,” said the paper explaining the discovery.
According to the study, Earliest evidence for cheese making in the sixth millennium BC in Northern Europe, early dairy farmers probably devised cheese-making as a way of preserving milk in a “non-perishable and transportable form.”
Evidence of dairy farming has been found at archaeological sites dating from the fifth millennium BC in Africa, and the seventh millennium BC in north-western Anatolia – modern-day Turkey.
“The finding of abundant milk residues in pottery vessels from seventh millennium sites from north-western Anatolia provided the earliest evidence of milk processing although the exact practice could not be explicitly defined,” it added.
“Notably, the discovery of potsherds pierced with small holes appear at early Neolithic sites in temperate Europe in the sixth millennium BC and have been interpreted typologically as ‘cheese-strainers’, although a direct association with milk processing has not yet been demonstrated.”