Humans were dairy farming in Saharan Africa at least 7000 years ago, according to a new analysis of pottery from an archeological site in Libya. Around 10,000 years ago the people of the Sahara region enjoyed a wetter and more verdant environment than we see today and lived the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. However, evidence of cattle bones in cave deposits and river camps suggests that these people began herding cattle between 5000 and 7000 years ago. Now, a team at the University of Bristol, UK, working with colleagues at La Sapienza, University of Rome, Italy, have used lipid biomarkers and stable carbon isotope analysis to investigate organic residues, preserved fatty acids, in pottery from the Takarkori rock shelter. The work confirms the use of cattle for milk 7000 years ago. The work also provides new clues to the emergence of the evolution of a lactase persistence gene which arose at this time in prehistoric people.
7000-year old dairy farmers