While modern dairy farming began in the early 1900s, researchers found that the Indus valley civilization had dairy production way back in the 3rd millennium BC which was probably one of the reasons behind its sustainability.
A team of Canadian and Indian researchers published their findings in the journal Nature. The study dates dairy production to 2500 BC. The lead researcher of the study, Kalyan Sekhar Chakraborty, who is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Toronto Mississauga said that this is the first time in history when it has been proved scientifically that dairy production was a part of the Indus valley civilization in 2500 BC—which is the "earliest known evidence of dairy production."
Kotada Bhadli Archaeological Site
The findings of the research were based on molecular chemical analysis of residue in the pottery found at an archaeological site located in the Indian state of Gujrat, known as Kotada Bhadli. The team of researchers studied 59 samples and 22 of them showed the presence of dairy liquids.
The team also conducted a stable isotope analysis, through which they came to know the type of ruminant used for dairy. Finally, they discovered that these were cattle, such as cows and buffaloes.
As per the lead author, Chakraborty, "This would have allowed the accumulation of a surplus of animal protein, without affecting the number of animals in your herd." Their findings also suggest that the levels of production meant that it was beyond household consumption.
While the research to identify animal use for meat is easy, as it can be determined from the cut marks on the bone samples, animal usage for dairy items are complex and "generally invisible", said Chakraborty. He is now aiming to take the research forward. The lead researcher wants to analyze even older remnants from Indus Valley Civilization, mostly from the time when animals were first domesticated.
Over the years, archaeologists tried to know more and more about the civilization. They found that the inhabitants of the ancient cities domesticated animals such as humped and shorthorn cattle, dogs, cats, and possibly pigs, camels, and buffalo. Archaeologists also found earlier that Asian elephants were also domesticated and the ivory tusks were used freely.