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Dairy Protein Found on Teeth of Britain’s Neolithic Farmers

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

England Neolithic DairyYORK, ENGLAND—BBC News reports that calcified plaque scraped from 6,000-year-old teeth has provided early evidence for dairy consumption among Britain’s Neolithic farmers. Traces of dairy products analyzed in the study were obtained from pottery fragments recovered at three Neolithic sites in Britain. Testing of these residues suggests that some of the milk had been heated, and analysis of the dental plaque using mass spectrometry detected a dairy protein in some of the individuals. The milk may have been converted into cheese, yogurt, or another fermented product that is easier to digest, since the DNA evidence indicates Britain’s Neolithic farmers were lactose intolerant. University of York archaeologist Sophy Charlton said people may have only consumed small amounts of dairy in order to avoid the abdominal pain, diarrhea, and nausea that can result from the inability to digest lactose beyond infancy. The mutation that makes it possible for adults to digest milk is thought to have first appeared in Europe during the Bronze Age. To read about some of the earliest evidence for cheese making, go to "When Things Got Cheesy."

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