Lactose Intolerance

X99Lynx at X99Lynx at
Tue Mar 27 05:05:05 UTC 2001

In a message dated 3/24/2001 6:26:51 AM, philjennings at writes:
<< If this speculation about dairy products is true, we would find no wordsor
symbols for "cheese," "yoghurt," or other such products in the texts we have
from before Khirbet Kerak, in any of the non-IE languages of the fertile
crescent (Sumerian only?).  Equally, if these products are an Indo-Anatolian
innovation, we might expect a diaspora of related terms for cheese, yoghurt,
etc. in a number of daughter languages. >>

I think you only need to do a search on the web listing "cheese" and
"Sumerian" to find a good deal that contradicts this.  One of the most
interesting stated "Remnants of a material identified as cheese have been
found in a Sumerian tomb dating to 3000 BC." Wonder if anyone was tempted to
take a bite. There are a slew of Sumerian Glossaries that list a cheese word.

There's another problem.  And that is it isn't clear that bovines were the
first or primary source of cheese in many cases.  I have citation if you like
from I think a Swedish Journal where evidence is reported of goat-milking in
the Sudan circa 7000BC.  And it appears that domesticated goats preceed cows
practically everywhere.  Also, there have been studies that indicate a
genetic casein pattern of domestic goats across southern Europe that favors
cheese-making quality and a reduction in lactose (e.g., A. Kouvatsi's work on
Greek goats) that is apparently not found in dairy cattle, perhaps suggesting
that goat's cheese was breed early on to be more digestible than cow cheese.
It should be remembered too that cattle - oxen - were domesticated to some
degree as work animals.  I don't know what the distribution of bones are in
NE Anatolia or the plateau, but my bet would be a lot more caprine than
bovine.  If I'm not mistaken, bovine bones are relatively rare at the early
levels at Troy.  But I think red deer and goat was rather plentiful.

(Interestingly, Homer's and the usual word for cheese in Greek, <turos>,
might suggest a whole new angle for the etymology of Troy or a confusion in
urban-dwelling Greeks about which gender of cattle cheese came from - just

Isn't there something not-right about Anatolian cowboys out on a beef cattle
drive developing a smaller cow so that they could become dairy farmers and
finally begin eating cheese.  It makes sense that larger herds - the kind
indicated quite early in the Levant  - were not kept for beef.

Cheese, like so many other early forms of processing, allows for both
preservation and digestion.  I don't know the history of chordizo sausage
technology, but I would think that cheese would always have the advantage of
being less perishable than meat and more likely to be valuable in trade or
just to store.  Hunting would seem to be a more efficient way to put meat on
the table until better preservative methods come along.  In Europe,
mesolithic types seem to eat more animal protein than bronze and iron age

<<A companion to this hypothesis is that the Anatolians brought with them not
just fermented milk products, but the whole idea of fermentation/leavening,
almost immediately applied to beer and later to bread.  Is there evidence for
beer in Sumer or Egypt prior to the mid-3rd millennium bce?  (Linguistic or
otherwise?)  I'm given to understand that there is, and that this companion
hypothesis fails.>>

See Andrew Sheratt's (the author of the "secondary-products revolution"
construct very relevant to your subject) change of opinion regarding the LBK
vats (c. 4500BC).  He once thought they were holding milk, but now he thinks
they were for holding malt.  Remember that beer is also a way to perserve
grain and a good way to make questionable water drinkable.  Among other

<<My more limited "fermented milk" hypothesis has a sequel; that the later
development of horse-and-cow nomadism by the precursors of the Indo-Aryans
north of the Black Sea will have resulted in a population of completely
lactose-tolerant people, able to expand at the expense of less
protein-nourished lactose-intolerant agriculturalists...>>

I should point out that communities that develop ways around lactose
intolerance, like cheese, don't really need to develop lactose tolerance.
The amount of dairy consumed by the French per capita is much larger than the
amount consumed by Swedes, despite a rather higher rate of intolerance.  It
is of course consumed in the form of cheese.

And that European agriculturalists introduced cows and had cows very early
on, in many cases plenty more cows than are found on the steppes.
Domesticated cattle are among the first signs of the coming of
neolithization.  I see here a report that milk curdling vessels dating from
5,000 B.C. have been found on the shore of Lake Neufch√Ętel in Switzerland.
If anyone had cow cheese, it was the agriculturalists.

And if we go by ordinary statistical epicenters as origin points based on
today's distribution of lactose tolerance, your precursors of Indo-Aryans
started in Sweden and Finland and spread to some lesser extant to Spain and
to an even lesser extent to Hungary and the Ukraine, having however
established isolated strongholds in Saudi Arabia and among the Tussi in Afri
ca.  Actually, they sound like they might be vikings to me.

<<Linguistically, "milk" the glandular secretion that nurtures new-borns, and
"milk" the protein-rich adult drink, may never have been distinguished by
separate terms.>>

I have this note from a Thai scholar:
"The word for breast and milk in many Southeast Asian languages are often
related etymologically. For example, in Thai nom(32) is breast, and
nam(45)nom(32) 'water breast' is milk...  In Rgyalthang, another variety of
Khams Tibetan spoken in Yunnan (PRC), the word for milk is nei (231), which
obviously came from nei(231)po(51) 'breast'.

However, Rgyalthang also distinguishes between nei(231) 'breast milk' and
wui(231) 'cow milk'...."

Steve Long

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