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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

2/28/2014 (7 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Product classified as the earliest known cheese - and proof of an ancient technology

Its cheese of a highly revered vintage - but few people would knowingly eat it. The cheese in this case, has been found on the chest and hair of 3,500-year-old mummies. Scientists say that this is the first certifiable existence of a dairy product - and points to an ancient technology being used.

The mummies sport felt caps with feathers, woolen capes and leather boots. They were buried with precious objects including woven baskets, carved masks and a medicinal herb, as well as the cheese.

The mummies sport felt caps with feathers, woolen capes and leather boots. They were buried with precious objects including woven baskets, carved masks and a medicinal herb, as well as the cheese.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

2/28/2014 (7 months ago)

Published in Technology

Keywords: Cheese, mummies, milk, dairy, technology


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Said cheese in question dates back to 1,615 B.C. and was essentially vacuum-packed with the bodies of the mysterious Bronze Age people buried in the Taklamakan Desert, making it the oldest ever recovered.

First discovered in the 1930s, scientists have only just analyzed the proteins and fats in the clumps of 3,600-year-old food to reveal its age and ascertain that it is not butter or milk.

At least 200 mummies were discovered in the 1930s by Swedish archaeologists in the Taklimakan Desert north of Tibet.

Swedish archaeologist Folke Bergman discovered the Small River Cemetery in 1934. It had been forgotten until it was relocated using GPS navigation by a Chinese expedition. Archaeologists began excavating it from 2003 to 2005.

The people died around 3,600 years ago. Their bodies had been well preserved because of the air-tight nature of their unusual graves and salty soil. The people had European features with light brown hair. All were left unnamed. Buried in up-turned boats, the people were wrapped in animal skin to be air-tight on the top of sand dunes.

The mummies sport felt caps with feathers, woolen capes and leather boots. They were buried with precious objects including woven baskets, carved masks and a medicinal herb, as well as the cheese. The objects may have been intended for the afterlife.

Chemists at Germany's Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics found that the cheese is a lactose-free variety that was quick to make.

"We not only identified the product as the earliest known cheese, but we also have direct evidence of ancient technology," analytical chemist and study author Andrej Shevchenko says. It might have been responsible for spreading dairy farming across Asia in the Bronze Age, the said.

The method of making the cheese was inexpensive and would have been used by common people, he said.

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