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Dairy farming over 8,000 years old

Article from The Press Association

Cows and goats were being milked more than 8,000 years ago, according to new evidence which pushes back the origins of dairy farming by two millennia.

Scientists found fatty traces on ancient pottery that showed they were used to store dairy products.

The findings also suggest that milk processing was taking place as long ago as the seventh millennium BC.

Raw milk residues would not have survived so well over the centuries. The traces found by the researchers are thought to have been left by dairy products such as cheese and ghee.

Although cattle, sheep and goats are known to have been domesticated in the Near East by the eighth millennium BC, there was no early evidence that they were used for anything other than meat.

Until now the first clear evidence of milk production only appeared in the late fifth millennium.

The new discovery arose from an analysis of 2,200 pottery vessels from the Near East and the Balkans.

Residues found in some of the pots contained residues with a particular carbon signature which showed they were derived from milk.

Milking was especially important in north-western Anatolia, the ancient region that covered most of modern Turkey, the scientists reported in the journal Nature.

The international team, led by Dr Richard Evershed from the University of Bristol, wrote in the journal Nature: "Our results provide new insights into the emergence of dairying as a component of the domestication of animals. The appearance of dairy products at early sites in the region is the earliest evidence so far, by one - two millennia, dating back to the start of ceramics in the region; this indicates an earlier date for the milking of domesticated animals than predicted by reconstructions based on other lines of evidence."

 

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