Bronze Age: Horse’s milk as a recipe for success in European conquest

Bronze Age: Horse's milk as a recipe for success in European conquest

NS Findings published in the journal “Nature” As a result a clear pattern: before the Bronze Age, there was no trace of milk protein in the tartar of ten peoples in the steppe region of the Lower Volga. Obviously, milk was not at all or regular on the menu at the time of these people. But this changed as an analysis of the people who lived at the site later – in the early Bronze Age and the rise of the Yamanays – did. Of the 16 individual tartar samples, 15 contained milk protein residues. The people here consumed the milk of goats, cows and sheep – and, in one case, horse milk. Specimens from the later Bronze Age show that local residents then stuck to dairy products.


© Egor Kitov / Samara Valley Project (detail)

Age Tartar provides information about eating habits. Proteins are especially well preserved in hard tartar. Even after thousands of years it is still possible to understand what a person once ate: dairy products, for example, at the beginning of the Bronze Age in the southern Russian steppe.

The researchers conclude that livestock farming and milking played a very important role in the upheaval at the beginning of the Bronze Age. However, the change in diet goes along with many other cultural and technological changes. Around the same time, people of the prosperous Yamanaza culture abandoned their traditional settlements in the river valleys, starting to build typical Kurgan burial mounds, moving in wagons and taking horses with them more often than before. It is possible that the horses no longer served only as mounts, but also as milk producers – both of which could have increased people’s mobility in difficult terrain or even in winter and fueled their Europe-wide success. could, the researchers speculate.

It is not clear in what form the Yamnaja and his relatives may have consumed the milk. Earlier genetic studies showed that the Yamanaja of the Early Bronze Age did not yet have the persistence of lactase, meaning that they did not have the necessary genetic makeup to easily digest lactose, even as adults. It is conceivable that the milk proteins in tartar come from fermented milk products, such as cheese or yogurt.

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