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Original article:

Thelocal.se

Diver Jerry Wilhelmsson was out looking for a different shipwreck altogether off the south coast of the Åland islands (Finland’s autonomous Swedish-speaking islands between Stockholm and Helsinki) when he came across an incredible discovery. Sitting in front of him at a shallow depth was an unusually well-preserved 27 metre long shipwreck, complete with anchor, figurehead and hundreds of unopened bottles.

Wilhelmsson and his diving team Baltic Underwater Explorers now have permission to take some of the bottles back up to the surface in the hope that analysis will provide an explanation for where the mysterious wreck came from.

“It’s quite rare to find a wreck in this condition with cargo intact at a relatively shallow depth,” Magnus Melin of Baltic Underwater Explorers told The Local.

“The coolest thing must be the cargo hold with all the bottles. But the whole relatively small wreck, which has a figurehead, is very interesting. To me, the ship itself and its (currently unknown) story are the most interesting things.”

READ ALSO: Why Sweden’s famous Vasa shipwreck is getting a makeover

Speaking to Swedish tabloid Aftonbladet, marine archaeologist Marcus Lindholm speculated that the ship’s style suggests it dates from between 1850 and 1870.

But a better way to know for certain is to analyze the contents of some of the hundreds of bottles still sitting unopened in cargo boxes on the wreck.

“We have contact with the local authorities and they’ll come up with a plan on how to continue. Initially some of the bottles will be salvaged to analyze their content,” diver Melin explained.

“We don’t know at the moment what will happen after that, but more non-destructive documentation will be done to identify the wreck.”

Story continues below…

The waters in and around Sweden’s Baltic coast are something of a hotbed for shipwreck finds.

In April, two shipwrecks dating back to at least the 1600s were found in central Stockholm next to the island of Skeppsholmen, once again by chance when divers were examining the seabed before a boating race.

And on a smellier note, in July Swedish scientists discovered what they believe to be 340-year-old cheese on board the wreck of the royal ship Kronan in the waters near Baltic island Öland.

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The ship’s figurehead. Photo: Jerry Wilhelmsson

 

 

 

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Original Article:

qz.com

Alpine cheeses may have been one of our obsessions for over 3,000 years.

A paper published in PLoS on April 21 from researchers at Newcastle University and the University of York in England outlines some of the first evidence that humans living in the Swiss Alps around 1000 BC were able to produce cheeses.

Researchers examined 30 recovered fragments of pots from six different sites among the European mountains. A chemical analysis revealed that the pots had residues of compounds produced when milk from animals is heated, which is an important part of the cheese-making process.

Even though cheese-making had been documented earlier at lower altitudes, making cheese in the mountains was an impressive feat for our ancestors. “Prehistoric herders would have had to have detailed knowledge of the location of alpine pastures, be able to cope with unpredictable weather and have the technological knowledge to transform milk into a nutritious and storable product,” Francesco Carrer, an archeologist at Newcastle University and lead author of the paper, said in a press release. “Even today, producing cheese in a high mountainous environment requires extraordinary effort.”

Why make cheese? When produced during the summer months and stored, it may have provided a high-protein food source for mountain residents during the winter. As the climate shifted and left less land for crops and livestock, cheese may have also served as a less land-intensive food to produce.

Cheese may have also been an ancient form of bling. “The consumption of dairy products and meat were also integral elements in feasting,” the researchers write. They hypothesize that as social class became an increasingly hierarchical, owning and eating products that were more difficult to make demonstrated affluence.

 

 

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Archaeologists have uncovered evidence that Swiss cheesemaking dates back to prehistoric times, paving the way for such delicacies as Gruyere and Emmental.

Source: Iron age man was as fond of Swiss cheese as we are

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Topic Ancient Cheese

Remains discovered with mummies in China prove to be oldest known samples of cheese.

Vintage Gouda may be aged for five years, some cheddar for a decade. They’re both under-ripe youngsters compared with yellowish clumps – found on the necks and chests of Chinese mummies – now revealed to be the world’s oldest cheese.

The Chinese cheese dates back as early as 1615 BC, making it by far the most ancient ever discovered. Thanks to the quick decay of most dairy products, there isn’t even a runner-up. The world’s best-aged cheese seems to be a lactose-free variety that was quick and convenient to make and may have played a role in the spread of herding and dairying across Asia.

“We not only identified the product as the earliest known cheese, but we also have direct … evidence of ancient technology,” says study author Andrej Shevchenko, an analytical chemist at Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics. The method was “easy, cheap … It’s a technology for the common people.”

The cheese, like the mummies, owes its existence to the extraordinary conditions at Small River Cemetery Number 5, in northwestern China. First documented by a Swedish archaeologist in the 1930s, it sits in the fearsome Taklamakan Desert, one of the world’s largest. A mysterious Bronze Age people buried dozens of their own atop a large sand dune near a now-dry river, interring their kin underneath what looks like large wooden boats. The boats were wrapped so snugly with cowhide that it’s as if they’d been “vacuum-packed,” Shevchenko says.

The combination of dry desert air and salty soil prevented decay to an extraordinary degree. The remains and grave goods were freeze-dried, preserving the light-brown hair and strangely non-Asian facial features of the dead along with their felt hats, wool capes and leather boots. Analysis of the plant seeds and animal tissues in the tombs showed the burials date to 1450 to 1650 BC.

Some of the bodies had oddly shaped crumbs on their necks and chests. By analyzing the proteins and fats in these clumps, Shevchenko and his colleagues determined that they’re definitely cheese, not butter or milk. It’s not clear why people were buried with bits of cheese on their bodies, Shevchenko says, though perhaps it was food for the afterlife.

The analysis also showed the mummies’ cheese was made by combining milk with a “starter,” a mix of bacteria and yeast. This technique is still used today to make kefir, a sour, slightly effervescent dairy beverage, and kefir cheese, similar to cottage cheese.

If the people of the cemetery did indeed rely on a kefir starter to make cheese, they were contradicting the conventional wisdom. Most cheese today is made not with a kefir starter but with rennet, a substance from the guts of a calf, lamb or kid that curdles milk. Cheese was supposedly invented by accident when humans began carrying milk in bags made of animal gut.

Making cheese with rennet requires the killing of a young animal, Shevchenko points out, and the kefir method does not. He argues that the ease and low cost of the kefir method would have helped drive the spread of herding throughout Asia from its origins in the Middle East. Even better, both kefir and kefir cheese are low in lactose, making them edible for the lactose-intolerant inhabitants of Asia. The new results are reported in an upcoming issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

Scientists have found fragments of cheese-making strainers in Poland that date back more than 7,000 years, and there are Danish pots from 5,000 years ago that hold what may be butter or cheese, says bioarchaeologist Oliver Craig of the University of York in Britain. But he agrees that Shevchenko’s team has good evidence that their cheese is the record-holder for age.

Craig is more cautious about the new study’s suggestion that the cheese was made with kefir starter rather than rennet. That’s harder to prove, he says, because the proteins could have decayed too much to provide a definitive answer. He thinks a study of animal bones or pottery is needed to confirm that the cheese at the cemetery was part of a technological spread across Asia.

Whether the cheese was common in its day, it’s exceptional now. Usually if a dairy product is left to its own devices, “bacteria will get in and start to eat it away, liquefy it,” Craig says. “It’s just amazing it survived.”

Original article:
USA today
By Traci Watson, Special for USA TODAY 4:24 p.m. EST February 25, 2014

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Topic Cheese

As a young archaeologist, Peter Bogucki based his groundbreaking theory on the development of Western civilization on the most ancient of human technology, pottery. But it took some of the most modern developments in biochemistry—and 30 years —finally to confirm he was right.

While working as director of studies at one of Princeton University’s residential colleges in the 1980s, Bogucki theorized that the development of cheese-making in Europe—a critical indicator of an agricultural revolution—occurred thousands of years earlier than scientists generally believed. His insight, based on a study of perforated potsherds that Bogucki helped recover from dig sites in Poland, promised to change the scientific understanding of how ancient Western civilization developed.

Bogucki published his theory in a 1984 article in the Oxford Journal of Archaeology. Although his detective work was extensive, it was impossible to prove the bits of pottery were the remains of a cheese maker, rather than some other type of strainer.
There the matter lay, until researchers at the University of Bristol used a new type of test to measure ancient molecular remnants embedded within the pottery. “Lo and behold, it was chock full of dairy lipids,” said Bogucki, who is now the associate dean for undergraduate affairs at Princeton’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.
The discovery of milk lipids, a type of molecule signaling milk processing, was a smoking gun. In an article published last month in the scientific journal Nature, Bogucki and his fellow researchers explain that the presence of milk byproducts found in the pottery provides compelling evidence that farmers used the perforated pots to separate cheese curds from whey.
It also explains how Neolithic Europeans, who were generally unable to digest lactose, were able to use milk for food—the whey retains most of the lactose in milk, allowing the farmers to eat the low-lactose cheese. “The discovery provides evidence of the manufacture of long-lasting and transportable dairy products as well as the consumption of low-lactose dairy products at a time when most humans were not tolerant of lactose,” said Mélanie Salque, a researcher at the University of Bristol and the lead author of the Nature article.

The discovery has attracted notice from around the world. Bogucki has been quoted in the Los Angeles Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer and the BBC, and has been interviewed on National Public Radio. Polish national newspapers, such as Gazeta Wyborcza, have also run articles on the work. “It is a new experience to be in the midst of a media frenzy,” Bogucki said. Although it can be a little distracting, he said “it sharpens your way of talking about what you have done and that is often very useful.”
Bogucki’s expertise is the prehistoric archaeology of central Europe; he is writing a book on early European farming. Like most border regions, areas such as modern-day Poland are of great interest to social scientists studying the interaction of cultures.
“The sites we are dealing with are in north central Poland,” he said. “They are on the northern fringe of the earliest farming settlements. To the north of them lay the hunter gatherers of the Baltic basin.” In the early 1980s, archaeologists began narrowing their estimates of when key farming developments occurred in ancient Europe.
In 1981, Andrew Sherratt at the University of Oxford published a seminal paper describing his theory of a “secondary products revolution,” a leap in civilization in which ancient farmers began using livestock for more than just meat. Anthony Legge, then at the University of London, published papers arguing that farm communities had adopted dairying sometime between 4,000 and 3,500 B.C., earlier than previously thought. “Tony was studying animal bones from sites in the British Isles and noticed the patterns at which the cows were slaughtered—lots of young males and older females—were consistent with what you would find in a dairying economy,” Bogucki said.

At the time, Bogucki was serving as director of studies of Princeton Inn College, now Forbes College, and continuing his archaeological work. He had noticed an unusual type of pottery at a number of sites around Poland: fragments of pots that had been perforated with small holes. But he did not think too much about them until a chance visit in Vermont. “My wife and I were driving back from a wedding in Canada, and we stopped at a friend’s house,” Bogucki said. “She had a lot of artifacts from the 19th century that she had gathered from the area and one of them was a ceramic strainer. It intrigued me because the only other strainers of this type that I was familiar with were the ones from Poland. “I said, ‘What did they use these for?’ And she said, ‘Cheese-making, of course.'”

In his 1984 article, “Ceramic Sieves of the Linear Pottery Culture and Their Economic Implications,” Bogucki developed his argument that dairying developed far earlier than generally accepted. He based his argument on potsherds from archaeological sites of the Linear Pottery Culture, a European Neolithic civilization whose remains are characterized by distinctive incised lines on its pottery. Bogucki noted in his paper that the sieve sherds were frequently found at sites dating to the Neolithic period, well before the time Legge suggested. But the sherds received little attention from archaeologists, who often focused on more spectacular artifacts. When sieves were mentioned in scientific literature, a variety of uses were proposed ranging from honey strainers to braziers.

Bogucki found them unconvincing. “Why raw honey should require straining in the first place is difficult to answer, for it would seem that it is perfectly usable straight from the comb,” Bogucki wrote. “The case for the Neolithic perforated vessels as braziers or ember-holders is equally difficult to support but maddeningly tough to demolish, although it seems rooted in a somewhat romantic view of prehistoric rural life.” Vindication is often sweet; this time, it’s savory Using data he collected from dig sites in Poland, Bogucki analyzed animal remains from Linear Pottery Culture settlements and concluded that Linear Pottery settlers seldom hunted for food and relied heavily on cattle.

There were also almost no remains of pigs, a far more efficient meat source than cattle. Bogucki also determined that raising cattle for meat alone would have made no economic sense for the Linear Pottery farmers who carved grain fields from dense forests. He estimated that the herds would have consumed too much food over too long a time to justify raising them simply for slaughter. Cheese, on the other hand, allowed for a storable and continuing food source. “Linear Pottery communities clearly had access to milk; to ignore such a resource would negate any economic advantages gained from keeping domestic cattle in the central European forests,” he wrote. But production of milk alone would not justify dairy farming, as Bogucki explained recently. “It only makes sense if you can convert it into something that is storable and will get you through the winter and into the next season,” he said. Bogucki’s theory was solid, but it was also controversial. For one, it meant that the secondary products revolution—in which humans began using animals for things like milk, wool and traction power rather than just for meat—developed over a much longer period.
Bogucki said that his colleagues felt his argument was interesting, but impossible to prove. “No one really knew where to go with it.” That remained the case until recent years when a British biochemist, Richard Evershed, developed a technique to analyze lipid remnants trapped in ancient pottery. Evershed, a professor at the University of Bristol, was able to identify the remains of milk lipids that had bonded to pottery shards. Salque was one of Evershed’s students. “I came across Bogucki’s work from the 1980s that I found fascinating,” Salque said. “I think he was very pleased that someone could finally test his hypothesis.” After hearing from Salque, Bogucki contacted colleagues in Poland and arranged for samples to be transferred to Bristol for testing. Then he waited. “Mélanie sent me an email saying ‘you will be very happy with the results,'” he said.
The research team reported its findings in Nature on Dec. 12. Besides Bogucki, Salque and Evershed, the authors are: Joanna Pyzel, of the University of Gdansk; Iwona Sobkowiak-Tabaka, of the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology; Ryszard Grygiel, of the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnography in Lodz; and Marzena Szmyt, of the Poznan Archaeological Museum. Bogucki said he would like to pursue similar research in the future, perhaps studying the nutrition of the Linear Pottery farmers or their interaction with the hunter gatherers in the region.
And, although he is gratified to see his theory validated, he wouldn’t mind moving on to a different subject. “I actually hate cheese. I don’t like the taste, I don’t like the texture,” Bogucki said. Making a breakthrough around his preference for mint chocolate-chip ice cream, however, seems unlikely. “I suppose I am destined to have my career forever linked with cheese-making,” he said.

Journal reference: Oxford Journal of Archaeology Nature Provided by Princeton University

Original article:

Phys.org
By John Sullivan

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Topic More on cheese

This post and the one on Wednesday are similar, but I’m sure you will find both informative.

Traces of dairy fat in ancient ceramic fragments suggest that people have been making cheese in Europe for up to 7,500 years. In the tough days before refrigerators, early dairy farmers probably devised cheese-making as a way to preserve, and get the best use out of, milk from the cattle that they had begun to herd.

Peter Bogucki, an archaeologist at Princeton University in New Jersey, was in the 1980s among the first to suspect that cheese-making might have been afoot in Europe as early as 5,500 bc. He noticed that archaeologists working at ancient cattle-rearing sites in what is now Poland had found pieces of ceramic vessels riddled with holes, reminiscent of cheese strainers. Bogucki reasoned that Neolithic farmers had found a way to use their herds for more than milk or meat.

In a paper published in Nature, Bogucki and his collaborators now confirm that theory, with biochemical proof that the strainers were used to separate dairy fats. Mélanie Salque, a chemist at the University of Bristol, UK, used gas chromatography and carbon-isotope ratios to analyse molecules preserved in the pores of the ancient clay, and confirmed that they came from milk fats. “This research provides the smoking gun that cheese manufacture was practiced by Neolithic people 7,000 years ago,” says Bogucki.

Dairy culture

“This is the first and only evidence of [Neolithic] cheese-making in the archaeological record,” says Richard Evershed, a chemist at Bristol and a co-author of the paper. The finding, he adds, is not only an indication that humans had by that time learned to use sophisticated technology, but is also evidence that they had begun to develop a complex relationship with animals that went beyond hunting. “It’s building a picture for me, as a European, of where we came from: the origins of our culture and cuisines,” he says.

Cheese-making would have given the Neolithic farmers a way to make the most out of the resources available from their herds. Early humans were unable to digest milk sugars, or lactose, after childhood; however, traditionally made cheese contains much less lactose than fresh milk. “The making of cheese would have allowed them to get around the indigestibility of milk without getting ill,” Evershed says.

“It’s one small step, but it’s filling out the picture of that transition from nomadism,” says Heather Paxson, a cultural anthropologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, who studies US artisan cheese-makers. She suggests that Neolithic people might have curdled their milk with bacteria that are found in nature, resulting in a clumpy version of modern mozzarella.

Evidence of dairy farming has previously been found at archaeological sites dating from the fifth millennium bc in Africa and the seventh millennium bc near Istanbul. But no sieves have been found at those locations, so there is no indication that cheese was being made there.

Original article:
nature.com

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Topic: Cheese

Scientists may be one step closer to uncovering the origins of cheese-making, as evidence thousands of years old has been uncovered. What would a Neolithic cheese have tasted like?

Truly an ancient art, no-one really knows exactly when humans began making cheese.

But now milk extracts have been identified on 34 perforated pottery vessels or “cheese-strainers”, which date back 7,500 years that have been excavated in Poland.

It is unambiguous evidence for cheese-making in northern Europe during Neolithic times, scientists believe, and the findings have been published in the scientific journal Nature.

“We analysed some fragments of pottery from the region of Kuyavia [Poland] pierced with small holes that looked like modern cheese-strainers,” says Melanie Salque, a postgraduate student at the University of Bristol’s Department of Chemistry.

“They had been thought to be cheese-strainers because of the peculiar presence of holes on the surface.
“However, they could well have been flame covers, chafing dishes, honey strainers or used for beer-making, to strain out chaff.

Ms Salque and her team then analysed lipid residues on the vessels and detected milk residues, which they say provides a link to cheese-making.

“The evidence was stunning,” explains Professor Richard Evershed, of Bristol University.
“If you then put together the fact that there are milk fats in with the holes in the vessels, along with the size of the vessels and knowing what we know about how milk products are processed, what other milk product could it be?”

Although scientists have not identified a compound of cheese they have put together a convincing case.

A cheese strainer from Haute-Loire, France, dating back to the beginning of the 20th Century helped inform scientists.
Modern and ethnographic cheese strainers were used to build up an understanding of how the perforated pottery vessels found in Poland might have been used during Neolithic times.
Source: Melanie Salque, Bristol University

Is it possible that prehistoric people were making cheese much earlier than 7,500 years ago?

“The most important ingredient for cheese-making is milk and only domesticates can be milked. Thus, it is unlikely that the origins of cheese-making predates the Neolithic,” says Ms Salque.

Earlier examples of milk residues have been detected on pottery vessels from the Near East, dating back 8,000 years, although the evidence did not suggest that they were used for milk processing activities, explains Ms Salque.

The only other written evidence for cheese-making activity occurs much later in the archaeological record, around 5,000 years ago.

“The question is how long did it take for people to figure out the technology of transforming that milk into fermented products and eventually into cheese, and that’s really hard to say,” says Dr Peter Bogucki of Princeton University.

“I think we can say that it’s a key Neolithic innovation to be able to produce a storable product from something perishable and hard to handle like milk, and to do it routinely and repetitively, with continual refinement and that within a few millennia after the domestication of cattle, sheep, and goats we can talk about cheese production.”

What would have prompted Neolithic people to start making cheese?

Neolithic farming communities were lactose intolerant, so transforming raw milk into cheese made the milk easier to digest, and also easier to preserve and transport, scientists believe.

“Processing milk into cheese allows the lactose content of milk to be reduced. And genetic and computer simulations have shown that at that time, people were largely lactose intolerant,” explains Ms Salque.
“So making cheese allowed them to consume dairy products without the undesirable health effects.”

“It also shows that humans were not only killing animals for their meat, but also using what animals could produce and go on producing,” says Andrew Dalby, author of “Cheese: A Global History.”

Creating cheese from milk was also thought to be a much more economical way of farming in Neolithic times, following the domestication of cattle in the Near East.

“You can get milk but you can’t store milk, so the really important invention is how to store the food value of milk and that really means making cheese,” says Mr Dalby.

The discovery of cheese could also have been accidental, as humans began storing milk in animal stomachs for transportation.

“The introduction of salt into cheese might have started right from the beginning… perhaps without any conscious thought because you need rennet [a complex of enzymes] to curdle your cheese,” says Mr Dalby.

“If you’re in the Near East and you’ve milked your cow and you put it in a pottery vessel, leave it at 40C in the hot summer heat of Turkey, after two or three hours you’ve got yoghurt. You can imagine serendipity playing a huge role in this,” says Prof Evershed.

So what might a prehistoric cheese have tasted like?

“The study of animal bones… shows that cattle were the most common domesticates at the sites. So – cow’s milk cheese,” says Ms Salque.

“I guess it would have been like the traditional cheese you can get, maybe made simply by curdling milk with rennet.

“In France we have the Picodon, traditionally made in farms with cow or goats milk, that you curdle and then strain in a cheese strainer… I would imagine that the Prehistoric cheese would have been like this.

“It’s likely to have been a softer cheese.”

Andrew Dalby says the taste of the cheese may have changed according to the season.

“Similar to those they make in the region of France where I live, the result can be quite different depending on the season.

“Sometimes they harden and would in fact keep and still give good value months later.

“It would have been a very long series – hundreds, thousands of years of experiment and that’s what resulted in the vast range of cheeses that we have now.”

Original article:
bbc.co.uk
Dec 12, 2012

By Hannah Briggs
BBC Food

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Photo above, A cheese strainer from Haute-Loire, France, dating back to the beginning of the 20th Century helped inform scientists.
Modern and ethnographic cheese strainers were used to build up an understanding of how the perforated pottery vessels found in Poland might have been used during Neolithic times.

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