The New York Times reports on new evidence emerging as to the history of dairy farming in human societies, and just how far back it goes:
Prehistoric people in Saharan Africa had dairy farming operations 7,000 years ago, a new study reports — an insight revealed by their pottery. Researchers performed isotope analysis on samples drawn from excavated pottery, and were able to identify organic residues that originated from dairy fat.
The findings appear in the current issue of the journal Nature. The researchers found that the pottery, from a site in Libya known as the Takarkori rock shelter, retained an abundance of carbon isotopes related to fats from ruminant animals, like dairy and adipose fats, said Julie Dunne, an archaeologist at the University of Bristol in England and the study’s first author.
The analysis also indicates that the prehistoric dairy farmers were processing milk.
“We know that they were heating it, to make butters and so on,” Ms. Dunne said. “We can’t tell whether it was butter, cheese or yogurt, but we can tell they were processing it in the pots.”
This makes sense, she said, because people at the time were probably lactose-intolerant, and processing would have helped them digest the dairy more easily.
Read the full article here.
Domesticated cattle depicted in rock art in the Libyan Sahara. (Photo ©2012 NYTimes.com).