Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Poland's Neolithic Cheese Makers

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Image by Mélanie SalquePRINCETON, NEW JERSEY—Chemical analysis of ceramic vessels thought to have been used for making cheese 7,500 years ago has revealed molecular traces of milk fats. Peter Bogucki of Princeton University thought that the pots, which were found in northern Poland and are covered with holes, served to strain milk collected by early herders, but he needed proof. “This is the first and only evidence of [Neolithic] cheese-making in the archaeological record,” said chemist Richard Evershed, who contributed to the project. Cheese is lower in lactose than fresh milk, and was therefore more digestible for Neolithic people, who were unable to digest lactose past childhood.