Scientific Journeys – In search of the origins of cheese in the world and in history

A journey to the origin, history and cradles of cheese and the development of the best cheesemaking traditions in the world

Cheese awakens passions. It becomes the hallmark of a region or a country, as it is not only delicious food, but also incredibly diverse. Cheese has been an integral part of human culinary culture for thousands of years. From the humblest beginnings to the most sophisticated varieties, cheese has a rich history that spans many civilizations, continents and traditions. But when does cheese first appear?

The exact origin of the cheese is a mystery as it predates history. However, it is believed that cheese production probably began around 8000 BC, coinciding with the domestication of sheep and goats in the Fertile Crescent region of the Near East. The earliest evidence of cheese making comes from ancient pottery shards with traces of milk fat, discovered in present-day Turkey and dated to 6000 BC It is believed that the first cheeses were probably a by-product of the storage of milk in the stomachs of animals, that contained the enzyme rennet, which caused the separation of milk into curds and whey. There is even a legend with many variants about the discovery of cheese by an Arab merchant who used goat stomachs to store milk and one day found a delicious surprise.

Cheese represented a great advance for human survival, as it allowed milk, an extremely nutritious but very perishable product, to be converted into a concentrate of proteins, fats and nutrients that could be stored.

Cheese has multiple places of origin as various civilizations have developed their own manufacturing methods. Some key places in this story are:

middle East

As already mentioned, it is probably in the Fertile Crescent region that cheese production began, with traditional cheeses such as Jibneh Arabieh, a cheese from the Persian Gulf with a mild flavor similar to feta but less salty, or Ackawi, with a white texture and smooth, whose name means “from Akka”, a city in present-day Israel.

ancient egypt

Cheese was a staple food in ancient Egyptian culture. Murals from tombs from around 2000 BC show cheese-making processes. Archeologists recently discovered 2,600-year-old blocks of cheese in the Egyptian necropolis of Saqqara, in an incredible state of preservation. The cheese, which the researchers identified as similar to halloumi, a Greek cheese, was found inside ceramic vessels and dates to the Egyptian 26th or 27th Dynasty, between 688 and 525 BC.

ancient Rome

The Romans developed a sophisticated cheese industry that produced a wide variety of cheeses, giving rise to the astounding variety of European cheeses by introducing cheese-making techniques to conquered lands, thus spreading the art of cheese making throughout the world.


The barbarian hordes wiped out the Roman Empire, but not the cheese. The unique geography, climate and livestock in Europe led to the creation of countless varieties of cheese, especially in monasteries. In the Middle Ages, in these havens of knowledge, cheese making techniques were perfected, leading to the development of famous European cheeses such as Roquefort, Gouda and Brie, born in monasteries.

The greatest cheese traditions in the world

The story of cheese is not over yet. Today there are places in the world where the cheese tradition is more alive than ever. If you like cheese, this is not to be missed.

  • France: With over 1,000 varieties, France has a cheese culture like no other. The French approach to cheese emphasizes terroir, the influence of geography, climate and soil on a cheese’s unique characteristics. This dedication to quality and diversity has led to famous cheeses such as Camembert, Comté and Bleu d’Auvergne.
  • Italy: The heritage of Italian cheese dates back to the Roman Empire. Today, Italian cheese culture is characterized by its regional diversity and the production of famous cheeses such as Parmigiano-Reggiano, Mozzarella di Bufala and Gorgonzola.
  • Swiss: Swiss cheese making dates back to the early Middle Ages, when monks perfected the process in alpine monasteries. The Swiss are known for their mastery in making hard and semi-hard cheeses, such as Emmental, Gruyère and Appenzeller.
  • England: British cheese has a long history dating back to Roman times, with highly prized regional varieties such as Cheddar, Stilton and Wensleydale. The British cheesemaking tradition is characterized by innovation and creativity, with the emergence of new artisanal cheeses alongside established classics.

The love for cheese doesn’t stop. It is to be expected that when we humans leave the planet and conquer other worlds, we will also make cheeses there with a unique flavor and texture.

Quo Science Trips section sponsored by hyundai

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