Did cheese start human civilization?

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Augenis, Nov 1, 2018.

  1. Augenis Latvia isn't real Banned

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    This is not an AH question, but bear with me.

    My father believes that cheese is the foundation of human civilization and its invention was central in its beginning. Let me explain his point a little.

    According to him, cheese was revolutionary in that it was the first nutritious food humans could make which is consumable long after its creation, and, with some basic provisions to prevent mold, could be stored for the future. Thus, according to him, it was one of the most important founding blocs in starting human civilization - it allowed humans to make long journeys without the need of spending energy on hunting or gathering (as they would be able to just eat cheese they took with them) and thus enabled trade, exchange of ideas, etc.; and since it could be stored and gathered, it would allow humans to safely begin agriculture without immediately becoming reliant on food which can only be harvested once a year.

    How correct is he in this analysis on early human societies, or is he operating on false information?
     
  2. LSCatilina Vassican Labosiotos Vergagnatos

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    Two words : cured food.

    Long before cheese became a thing, drying/smoking/salting fish, meat or even vegetables allowed preservation and transportation.
    Cheese counts as well (and later due to the need of cattle domestication, when you can just smoke or dry hunt meat), but a bit less so because not all population could digest it and because it was a more complex product to make from curled milk. It basically ask for the right combination of salt and microflora to do make "hard cheese" that would be protected against mold and stored for the future : for the best bart of Neolithic and Bronze age, cheeses were variation over feta, cottage cheese or mozarella.

    Hard cheese really appeared later than this and, in Europe at least, its success came with Roman armies that were sent this as an easily transportable, mass-producable and storable food. Yay for logistics and military rations.
     
  3. Mightyboosh5 Well-Known Member

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    Short answer yes
     
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  4. Albert.Nik Well-Known Member

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    Civilization began in the Anatolia and the Caucasus region with the people living there(Caucasian race what we call today) first before spreading to elsewhere. This is also the place where Lactose tolerance and subsequent pastoralism began,incidentally. Considering two factors,it might have. I am open to corrections if I missed something.
     
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  5. telynk Well-Known Member

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    I think the importance of cheese may be a bit exaggerated here. Firstly, as LSCatalina said, making hard cheesw that can be stored for months requires some pretty sophisticated cheese-making techniques. Also, fermented yogurt/kefir type products are much older than cheese. They can only be stored for weeks rather than months but are much easier to make than cheese (just fill the leather bag you made the last batch in with milk and keep it closed), and have the added bonus of being easier to digest than cheese (since the bacterial culture eats the lactose).

    Also, since most adult humans at the time of the dawn of civilization were lactose-intolerant, early dairy peoducts were probably developed largely as baby food (because babies are almost universally lactose-tolerant). Having baby food that is not breastmilk is HUGE for being able to sustain newborns through times of famine, although I have no idea how important it was in the development of civilation per se.
     
  6. Tanc49 Domitian Truther

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    I did hear similar things about beers.
    Now, one thing that always puzzled me, and it might be relevant, is why cheese seems to be uniquely indo-aryan.
    I've never heard of Chinese/Viet/Japanese cheese. Was there any cheese in the Americas?
     
  7. Miker Still lurking...

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    Probably because most human are lactose intolerant and eating/drinking milk products can be quite painful.
     
  8. haider najib Well-Known Member

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    Has no idea
    I argued it was in my A level classic civilation class for half an hour.
     
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  9. Tanc49 Domitian Truther

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    I understand that much, but is there such a divide between Indo-aryan and the others?
    Indian have paneer, all of the Mediterranean has cheeses, as does Western/Northern Europe
     
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  10. oshron Emperor of Rplegacy

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    your father wouldn't happen to be from Wisconsin, would he? XD
     
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  11. Intransigent Southerner Well-Known Member

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    Of course, of course. This is why China never had a civilization of note; they just had no cheese!
     
  12. Orko Well-Known Member

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    Keep in mind that more than half the world never developed dairy products on their own. How come Mesoamerican, Andean, or East Asian civilizations developed without cheese? (short answer is they never needed it).

    While the preservation of foodstuffs was probably what allowed for early human societies to develop, it was grain, not cheese.
     
  13. Miker Still lurking...

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    Not specifically Indo-Aryan, but outside the Mediterranean, Europe, parts of India, Greater Iran, and the Eurasian steppes, yes.
     
  14. Byzantine fanatic Scholar of the West and East

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    I misread the thread title as "Did the Chinese start human civilization?" x'D
     
  15. markus meecham Marxism-Leninism-Bricksquad thought Banned

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    I pity their funny attempts at aping us by trying to create something worthy using tofu.
     
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  16. Lampiao Well-Known Member

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    As previously said, grains and cured food were much more important.

    Just go to the kitchen and you'll see that's much easier to make butter or yogurt, for instance. Humans domesticated goats before cows and to make cheese you need a lot of milk, which wouldn't be case if you have only a couple of goats. Butter has a better shelf life and it's easier to make, just remember Tibetan butter tea.
     
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  17. markus meecham Marxism-Leninism-Bricksquad thought Banned

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    I can't comment on much without a bit of research, but cattle-raising sub saharian cultures such as the maasai and others in west africa i cannot remember are lactose tolerant(and some of these researches were led by a ransome-kuti, what a family, jesus).
     
  18. CalBear Your Ursus arctos californicus Moderator Moderator Donor

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    Only if you consider pizza the start of civilization.
     
  19. Lampiao Well-Known Member

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    Lactase persistence is typical of all pastoralist peoples. When your main source of food is milk and you can't digest it, you die.

    I remember seeing on YouTube a class about how it was a biological advance of Indo-European people that permitted their advance over most of Eurasia.
     
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  20. Jürgen Well-Known Member

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    I would say mostly no, only mostly because cheece was clearly a very important part of it. As example dairy cattle gives 10 times as many calories in dairy alone as meat cattle over a lifetime, so fiding a wauy to store dairy was clearly very important. Also cattle allowed the transformation of grass and other inedible plants into calories human could consume. Grass also have some benefit over cereal, cereal have a shorter period where they consume solar energy, while grass continued consume solar energy as long as the weather is hot enough. Which means that cattle allowed humans to extend farming into areas, where cereal didn't do well and cheese as well as yogurts allowed these calories to be stored in more lean times.
     
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