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Cheesey Tales

2 March 2014

The Chinese aren't supposed to be cheese eaters as they are largely lactose intolerant and yet researchers have found lumps of yellow staff associated with mummies from 1600BC. After analysis the yellow lumps were identifed as cheese – see www.foxnews.com/science/2014/02/27/world-most-ancient-cheese-found-in-ch…

Dry and salty conditions in the Taklamakan Desert to the west of China seem to be why the cheeses were preserved as a recognisable object – though what it actually was made of was not discovered until it was analysed. The bodies, which are also mummified as a result of the same conditions, go back to the Bronze Age. They are in fact the people who buried their dead under boat like wooden structures and within cowhides, conditions that virtually vacuum packed the remains. Andrej Shevchenko has written a study for the Journal of Archaeological Science that has shown the cheese was made from a 'starter' of bacteria and yeast rather than the rennet from the guts of a young animal, and this has tended to form a low lactose cheese that Asia's lactose intolerant population could have consumed.

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