Earliest Evidence Of Milk Consumption Discovered By Scientists

Milk has been part of human nutrition since time immemorial. Rich in nutrients and easily available to anyone, it has various forms and has a very long history. But have you ever wondered when we, collectively as a species, first decided to milk the cow and drink its milk? Science may have recently found the answer.

It’s hard to really consider how much milk has shaped our culture, mainly because for as long as we can remember, milk has been a part of it. As such, it’s easy to overlook the importance of milk, how it has contributed to the development of the human body, how it brought about the domestication of cattle, the development of butter and cheese and how it shaped the food industry that we’re currently enjoying today.

To do this however, taking a step back in the past is needed. And researchers recently found out just when.

Milk Drinkers

As per a new research team, milk protein has been found to be entombed in the teeth of ancient farmers from Britain. This means that the evidence showing these prehistoric people were lactose intolerant proves milk is already being consumed by our ancestors as early as 6,000 years ago.

The findings also suggests that besides purely drinking the milk, it was also processed into dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt, or some other fermented variety.

To study the teeth, the researchers apparently used mass spectrometry after scraping plaque samples from the teeth and separating the components within it. From this, the tartar of several individuals from the early to middle Neolithic times showed traces of beta-lactoglobulin (BLG), which is a milk protein.

Lactose Intolerance

Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest the sugar that’s found in milk, meaning drinking it would cause conditions like diarrhea. However, since the analysis showed evidence of processing, the researchers are suggesting that these ancient people might have found a way to process the raw milk enough to make it more palatable.

"That idea fits quite well with other archaeological evidence for the period in which we find dairy fats inside lots of Neolithic pottery, both in the UK and the rest of Europe,” Dr Sophy Charlton, study co-author from the department of archaeology at the University of York, said.

Per experts, this is highly plausible since the Neolithic age in Britain brought about the introduction of farming, as well as the use of domesticated animals.

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