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Pottery shards hint at 7,000-year-old yoghurt production

An analysis of pottery shards found in North Africa suggests that yoghurt may have been on the menu 7,000 years ago.

The fermented dairy product left tell-tale traces of fat on the ceramic fragments, suggesting a way that the region’s inhabitants may have evolved to tolerate milk as adults.

The same team had previously identified the earliest evidence for dairying in potsherds nearly 9,000 years old from Anatolia2. But the findings from 7,000 years ago still predate the emergence and spread of the gene variants needed for the adult population to digest the lactose found in milk, says biomolecular archaeologist Richard Evershed of the University of Bristol, UK, who led the study with archaeological scientist Julie Dunne. He suggests that making yoghurt may have made dairy products more digestible.

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Story: Ewen Callaway, Nature | Photo: Roberto Ceccacci, The Archaeological Mission in the Sahara, Sapienza University of Rome

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