BREAKING NEWS 7 people dead in overnight shooting in Morgan County Full Story

This 7,200-year-old cheese stands alone among world's oldest

The earliest evidence for cheese making in the Mediterranean has been found in pottery from Croatia's Dalmat...

Posted: Sep 5, 2018 8:17 PM
Updated: Sep 5, 2018 8:17 PM

The earliest evidence for cheese making in the Mediterranean has been found in pottery from Croatia's Dalmatian coast, according to a new study.

But you won't want to eat this cheese. After all, it's 7,200 years old. And it's not even cheese anymore but the fatty residue left over from making fermented dairy products. It was found inside pottery designed to make and hold soft cheeses and yogurt.

Business and industry sectors

Business, economy and trade

Consumer products

Dairy products

Food and drink

Food products

Kinds of foods and beverages

Dairy production

Food and beverage industry

Food production industry

Death rates

Infant mortality

Population and demographics

Population trends

Society

Though "oldest cheese" isn't exactly a coveted title, the finding has serious implications for the history of the area, according to the study, published in the journal PLOS One on Wednesday.

"This pushes back cheese-making by 4,000 years," Sarah B. McClure, study author and associate professor of anthropology at Penn State, said in a statement.

It's the earliest documented lipid residue evidence for fermented dairy in the Mediterranean region and among the earliest documented anywhere to date, according to the study. Before this direct evidence, there were only a few recovered tools and literary references to cheese.

An international team of researchers looked at pottery from two Neolithic village sites in Croatia, Pokrovnik and Danilo Bitinj. They looked at washed and unwashed pottery, using radiocarbon dating on other items, like bones and seeds, recovered at the sites to help date the pottery. Testing carbon isotopes helped reveal whether the pottery held meat, fish, milk or fermented milk product.

Milk was found in pottery from the area as long as 7,700 years ago, about 500 years before the presence of the fermented products. DNA analysis of the population shows that adults were lactose-intolerant at the time, but their children were able to drink milk until at least age 10.

"First, we have [the process of] milking around, and it was probably geared for kids because it is a good source of hydration and is relatively pathogen-free," McClure said. "It wouldn't be a surprise for people to give children milk from another mammal."

In times of drought or scarcity, milk would have been a good substitute for water, according to the study.

Milk, yogurt and cheeses also influenced the style of pottery used to hold them. During the Early Neolothic period, "impressed ware" was used to hold meat, fish and milk.

Five hundred years later, in 5200 BC, Danilo pottery was developed with multiple styles for different purposes. Figulina, which held milk, animal fats and fish, was decorated and buff-colored. Rhyta, which held cheese, had distinct handles and large side openings and was usually shaped like animals or humans. And sieves were used to strain milk after being separated into curds and whey.

"Cheese production is important enough that people are making new types of kitchenware," McClure said. "We are seeing that cultural shift."

Milk and cheese production would have been a byproduct of farming. Milk was rich in nutrients, fat, protein and calories, and it was storable. In the event of famine, epidemic or drought or between harvests, milk and cheese would have helped the farmers and their families survive. And fermenting milk into cheese and yogurt would lower the lactose content for those who were lactose-intolerant.

The researchers also believe that the availability of milk and dairy products would have helped children in high-risk populations to survive and even allow them to be weaned earlier, increasing birth rates.

Because of the survival of those children who grew up drinking milk and eating cheese and yogurt, tolerance for dairy products and other advantages were carried on for future generations. The researchers also believe that this reduction of infant mortality and the addition of dairy resources allowed farming communities to expand to colder, northern climates, causing demographic shifts.

Huntsville
Overcast
75° wxIcon
Hi: 88° Lo: 69°
Feels Like: 75°
Florence
Scattered Clouds
81° wxIcon
Hi: 91° Lo: 71°
Feels Like: 85°
Fayetteville
Overcast
73° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 68°
Feels Like: 73°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
77° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 70°
Feels Like: 78°
Scottsboro
Overcast
73° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 67°
Feels Like: 73°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 18766

Reported Deaths: 651
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Mobile2321118
Jefferson1901104
Montgomery185843
Tuscaloosa83616
Marshall7089
Franklin5858
Lee56234
Shelby52819
Tallapoosa43466
Butler42118
Walker3862
Elmore3749
Chambers36026
Madison3534
Unassigned3062
Morgan3021
Baldwin2939
Dallas2923
Lowndes26512
Etowah26312
DeKalb2573
Autauga2415
Coffee2391
Sumter2287
Houston2265
Bullock2176
Pike2120
Colbert1902
Hale1859
Russell1810
Barbour1771
Marengo1756
Lauderdale1722
Calhoun1673
Wilcox1577
Choctaw15310
Cullman1521
Clarke1492
St. Clair1351
Randolph1287
Dale1240
Marion12411
Pickens1205
Talladega1195
Limestone1080
Chilton1071
Greene954
Macon934
Winston910
Jackson833
Covington821
Henry822
Crenshaw783
Bibb761
Escambia753
Washington736
Blount631
Lawrence510
Monroe462
Geneva440
Perry430
Conecuh411
Coosa401
Cherokee383
Clay282
Lamar280
Fayette160
Cleburne151

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Confirmed Cases: 25190

Reported Deaths: 401
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Shelby5546124
Davidson551666
Trousdale13944
Rutherford134328
Hamilton96419
Sumner93846
Lake8350
Bledsoe6101
Williamson58911
Putnam5246
Robertson5235
Tipton4613
Wilson4498
Knox4355
Out of TN4264
Bedford2974
Montgomery2863
Rhea2170
Hardeman2020
Madison1732
Bradley1661
Macon1663
Loudon1610
Unassigned1610
McMinn14614
Fayette1362
Cheatham1350
Dickson1200
Cumberland1202
Maury1071
Sevier972
Blount933
Coffee780
Washington750
Monroe713
Wayne640
Gibson631
Sullivan602
Lauderdale591
Hickman580
Dyer570
Franklin541
Greene522
Unicoi480
Obion453
Marion441
Hamblen422
Anderson422
DeKalb380
Smith361
Hawkins342
Marshall331
Lawrence330
Haywood332
White330
Cannon320
Overton320
Henry320
Grundy311
Lincoln290
Jefferson290
Carroll281
Meigs270
Warren260
Weakley260
Perry240
Hardin222
Cocke210
Sequatchie200
Johnson190
Polk190
Jackson190
Carter191
Campbell181
Morgan170
Crockett162
Roane160
Henderson150
Humphreys151
McNairy150
Grainger130
Giles130
Stewart130
Claiborne120
Scott120
Fentress120
Chester120
Clay80
Houston80
Benton71
Moore50
Decatur50
Van Buren40
Union40
Lewis30
Pickett30
Hancock10

 

 

Community Events