The antiquity of cheesemaking is well-accepted, allowing a hilarious mishearing of Jesus’ sermon in Monty Python’s Life of Brian. But how long have we been enjoying this delicious food product?
The answer is, at least 7,000 years, according to research recently published in Nature. Melanie Salque and others at Bristol University had, along with other archeologists, long pondered the use of certain Neolithic stone pots dug up in the 1970s. The pots were full of small holes, and the person who dug them up, Peter Bogucki of Princeton University, had speculated that they were used to separate curds and whey during cheesemaking.
The team at Bristol were able to prove his theory with the use of recently-developed techniques, allowing a chemical analysis of the residue inside the pots. The results showed a clear chemical signature for cow milk.
Cheesemaking allowed the removal of milk sugars that would have upset the stomachs of the lactose-intolerant Neolithic farmers. Cheese also stays edible for months and would have been a valuable food resource for year-round consumption.
Blessed were the cheesemakers indeed.