If you’ve ever read any other posts by yours truly on this site, you may have noticed I’ve got quite a thing for cheese (glorious cheese). Which is why I’m happy to report that scientists have finally found the source of so much joy for turophiles* everywhere— the oldest cheese-making operation in the world, dating back 7,500 years.
One might take it for granted that cheese has been around in some form ever since there have been animals around to milk, but it’s interesting to learn the possible origins of our dairy predecessors.
BBC News says scientists have identified milk extracts in 34 perforated pottery vessels, essentially cheese strainers, during an excavation in Poland. Scientists published their findings in the journal Nature, saying the strainers and the milk found on them are clear evidence that people were making cheese almost 7,500 years ago in northern Europe.
“We analyzed some fragments of pottery from the region of Kuyavia [Poland] pierced with small holes that looked like modern cheese-strainers,” said one of the scientists, noting that the vessels could’ve been chafing dishes, honey strainers or tools to make beer.
But then they found evidence that milk had been there, which another professor tells the BBC is “stunning.”
“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?”
Cheese! It has to be cheese! And since people hadn’t domesticated animals that give milk before Neolithic times, it’s “unlikely” that cheese-making can be any older than 7,500 years.
It wasn’t just that cheese is delicious — scientists point out that most farming communities back then were lactose intolerant and turning milk into cheese made it easier to digest. And also it’s really tasty and easier to carry than other foods.
For all the pizza-loving, sandwich-eating, fondue-dipping cheeseheads out there, we salute you, Neolithic ancestors. Thank you for cheese.
*That’s the actual term for a cheese-lover, says the Internet, unless you are from Wisconsin and also love the Green Bay Packers. Then you’re also a cheesehead and you wear silly foam wedges on your dome.