Europe and the Mediterranean continue to be one of the largest markets for cheeseSean Gallup/Getty Images

Cheese and cheesemaking as a skill have been around for over 7,200 years, a new find in Croatia along the Dalmatian coast has found. Fatty residues and fermented diary were found in ancient pottery which points out to yoghurt and possibly soft cheese.

The study was carried out by an international team of researchers, notes the release. Sarah B McClure, one of the members of the team and anthropologist, said that this find has pushed cheese-making back by 4,000 years.

Milk by itself in the region's pottery was found to be used as early 7,700 years ago, notes a report by This happened about 500 years before people started to use fermented milk products, said the researchers.

In spite of the fact that adults of the area were found to be lactose intolerant, as evidenced through DNA analysis of the population, children, however, were able to drink milk without issue till they were 10, researchers say.

Milk as a foodstuff was likely geared for kids because it is a good source of hydration and is relatively pathogen-free, explained McClure. "It wouldn't be a surprise for people to give children milk from another mammal."

Cheese has been consumed by people for over 7,000 yearsReuters

The shift from fresh milk to fermented milk products came about 500 years later and the shift is not just in the food, but also in the style of pottery used, say researchers. Cheese production was seen as important enough that people were making new types of kitchenware, said McClure.

In the Early Neolithic age, diets consisted of only meat, fish and some milk, as found in the era's "Impressed Ware", notes the report.

Fast forward 500 years to the Middle Neolithic, a new style of pottery had emerged—Danilo Pottery, say researchers. It signified the development of technology as well and included plates as well as bowls.

Sieves were also found as part of this era's pottery, notes the report. They were used to strain cheese curds and whey in fermented milk. Researchers sampled four sieves of which three were found to contain milk fats and cheese residue.

"This is the earliest documented lipid residue evidence for fermented dairy in the Mediterranean region, and among the earliest documented anywhere to date," write the researchers.

The study was first published in the Journal PLOS One.