Thursday, December 13, 2012

Milk Strainers, 7,000 Years Old

A just published chemical analysis found that Neolithic pots like the one above, from a site in Greece, were saturated with milk fats, and therefore probably used as cheese strainers. This had always been one of the guesses about them, so nobody was especially surprised. The sherds they tested were about 7,000 years old, and came from Poland. The same investigators found that large pots with no holes contained mammal fat, and that some bottles contained beeswax, which might have been used to make them waterproof:
Thus, the analyses of such a range of ceramics from the same area showed for the first time that different types of pottery were used in a specific manner, with sieves (and maybe bowls) being used for cheese-making, cooking pots for cooking meat and waterproofed bottles for storing water.
Which is great. But, sadly for the clarity of this interpretation, the pot show above has also been tested in the same way, and it tested positive for beeswax but not milk fats.

The identification of ancient fats in pottery is a new technology with great promise, but if it is like other technologies it can go wrong in many ways, and we have yet to understand those ways. So reserve judgement for a while yet.


leif said...

pretty cool what careful, modern analysis is able to reveal. this one could have been dropped while applying wax. can one ever be certain? from having handled a lot of low-fired clay, i know it's quite brittle. from having fired said clay in improvised fire pits, i also know the firing is pathetically uneven. i'm sure they were far more skilled at it than i.

kathy said...

CSI, Gravesite.
Makes me wish I picked archeology instead of chemistry.

Unknown said...

This strainers is very cool and unique art. Like artifact collections. It's very rare.