Archaeological news usually doesn't impress people unless a new tomb or underwater is found. So the fat residue on some old pots normally comes filed under the heading of specialists only.
Well, I'm a specialist and I think these old pots are megacool news. You see, they provide the oldest evidence of milk use ever found, more than 1500 years earlier than anything else known.
Talking about an article that was just published in the leading British science journal, Nature, Physorg.com wrote:
Professor Richard Evershed and colleagues describe how the analysis of more than 2,200 pottery vessels from southeastern Europe, Anatolia and the Levant extends the early history of milk by two millennia to the seventh millennium BC.
Vessels most likely to have been used for food preparation were selected to test where milk use started, and whether the use of milk products first began in the region where farming was pioneered – the Fertile Crescent – or whether it was an innovation of other regions.
Organic residues preserved in the pottery suggest that even before 6,500 BC milk was processed and stored, although this varied regionally depending on the farming techniques used.
Cattle, sheep and goats were familiar domesticated animals by the eighth millennium BC but until now, the first clear evidence for milk use was the late fifth millennium.
Why is this so important for those of us who can't drink milk? Everhard said:
Processing milk would have had two important advantages, providing a means of storing surplus milk as products, that is cheese, ghee, and so on, making them available throughout the year, and providing a solution for any problems of lactose intolerance; most lactose intolerant people have fewer problems with consuming processed milk products.
The spread of lactose tolerance moves along with a dairy culture from these beginners with low-lactose products in the Middle East. Those few humans with the mutant gene that allowed them to never stop making the lactase enzyme as adults had a slight reproductive advantage because milk and dairy products provided calcium and other critical nutrients. Since the mutant gene was dominant, they passed the gene to many of the children who passed it down to many of their children who passed it down to us, who live, at least in the West, in a dairy-laden culture. This was a good thing back when it meant survival and it's a good thing today.
I also advocate eating and drinking dairy products if you can do so without symptoms. It is a great source of nutrition. If you can't, at least we have many useful substitutes today. I'll probably get back to them tomorrow, but today is for our ingenious milk-drinking ancestors.