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Current Affairs

Cheese making in ancient India

Date: 24 October 2020 Tags: Miscellaneous

Issue

A study published in the journal Nature presents what could be the earliest evidence of cheese-making in South Asia. 

 

Background

The study is based on archaeological finds from the Kotada Bhadli settlement, located in modern day-Gujarat’s Kutch district, which was an agro-pastoral settlement in the Indus Valley civilisation.

 

Details

  • The organic compounds found in plant and animal products ––which had been absorbed into pottery remnants found at archaeological sites were extracted and analysed to identify what the people who used these vessels might have eaten.

  • Among other types of food is evidence of dairy processing, that is, the preservation of milk through fermentation and other techniques.

  • The significance of the finding lies in the revelation that cheese was very likely made and consumed in the subcontinent during what is known as the Mature Harappan period.

  • This would make it the earliest evidence of cheese-making in the region. Until now, there has only been speculation about when cheese was first made in the subcontinent.

  • Historians note the existence of the Aryan taboo on deliberate milk curdling. They speculate that the taboo may have been lifted when the Portuguese, who came to India in the 16th century and had formed settlements by the mid-17th century, made cottage cheese.

  • While the new study could establish the existence of dairy processing in India as far back as 4,500 years ago, previous studies have shown that cheese was likely being made even earlier in other parts of the world.

  • In 2018, a study used carbon dating of lipid residues in pottery from the Dalmatian Coast of Croatia to establish the practice of dairy processing in the Mediterranean over 7,000 years ago in 5200 BPE.

  • In another paper published in 2012, researchers found chemical evidence in pottery shards from Neolithic sites in northern Europe that showed the existence of cheese-making in the region about 7,500 years ago, in the sixth millennium BCE.