Dirty cooking pots dating to nearly 8,000 years ago reveal that some of Europe's earliest farming communities produced dairy products, such as cheese and yogurt.Antiquity 79(306): 882-894
Two separate studies indicate that Neolithic dairying took place in what are now Romania, Hungary and Switzerland.
The discoveries suggest people in these regions might have originally learned how to process milk-based foods from Asian farmers.
"From a diffusionist perspective, these findings lend support to the idea that the antiquity of dairying lies with the origins of animal domestication in southwest Asia some two millennia earlier, prior to its transmission to Europe in the seventh millennia B.C., rather than it being a later and entirely European innovation," wrote Oliver Craig, a scientist at Tor Vergata University in Rome, and colleagues in the first study published in the journal Antiquity.
Did the first farmers of central and eastern Europe produce dairy foods?
Oliver E. Craig et al.
Although the origins of domestic animals have been well-documented, it is unclear when livestock were first exploited for secondary products, such as milk. The analysis of remnant fats preserved in ceramic vessels from two agricultural sites in central and eastern Europe dating to the Early Neolithic (5900-5500 cal BC) are best explained by the presence of milk residues. On this basis, the authors suggest that dairying featured in early European farming economies. The evidence is evaluated in the light of analysis of faunal remains from this region to determine the scale of dairying. It is suggested that dairying — perhaps of sheep or goats — was initially practised on a small scale and was part of a broad mixed economy.
Journal of Archaeological Science
Volume 33, Issue 1 , January 2006, Pages 1-13
Chemical analyses of organic residues in archaeological pottery from Arbon Bleiche 3, Switzerland – evidence for dairying in the late Neolithic
Jorge E. Spangenberg et al.
Fatty acids distribution and stable isotope ratios (bulk δ13C, δ15N and δ13C of individual fatty acids) of organic residues from 30 potsherds have been used to get further insights into the diet at the Late Neolithic (3384–3370 BC) site of Arbon Bleiche 3, Switzerland. The results are compared with modern equivalents of animal and vegetable fats, which may have been consumed in a mixed ecology community having agrarian, breeding, shepherd, gathering, hunting, and fishing activities. The used combined chemical and isotopic approach provides valuable information to complement archaeological indirect evidence about the dietary trends obtained from the analysis of faunal and plant remains. The small variations of the δ13C and δ15N values within the range expected for degraded animal and plant tissues, is consistent with the archaeological evidence of animals, whose subsistence was mainly based on C3 plants. The overall fatty acid composition and the stable carbon isotopic compositions of palmitic, stearic and oleic acids of the organic residues indicate that the studied Arbon Bleiche 3 sherds contain fat residues of plant and animal origin, most likely ruminant (bovine and ovine). In several vessels the presence of milk residues provides direct evidence for dairying during the late Neolithic in central Europe.