New research has revealed that agriculture came to Europe amid a wave of immigration from the Middle East during the Neolithic period. The newcomers won out over the locals because of their sophisticated culture, mastery of agriculture — and their miracle food, milk. … The remains of more than 40 houses were unearthed [in the Upper Franconia region of northern Bavaria], as well as skeletons, a spinning wheel, bulbous clay vessels, cows’ teeth and broken sieves for cheese production — a typical settlement of the so-called Linear Pottery culture (named after the patterns on their pottery).
This ancient culture provided us with the blessing of bread baking. At around 5300 BC, everyone in Central Europe was suddenly farming and raising livestock. The members of the Linear Pottery culture kept cows in wooden pens, used rubbing stones and harvested grain. Within less than 300 years, the sedentary lifestyle had spread to the Paris basin. The reasons behind the rapid shift have long been a mystery. … In a bid to solve the mystery, molecular biologists have sawed into and analyzed countless Neolithic bones. The breakthrough came last year, when scientists discovered that the first milk drinkers lived in the territory of present-day Austria, Hungary and Slovakia. But that was also where the nucleus of the Linear Pottery culture was located. “The trait of lactose tolerance quickly became established in the population,” explains Joachim Burger, an anthropologist from the University of Mainz in southwestern Germany who is a member of the Leche team. … Continue reading