Paint: ancient shepherds


The history of cheese begins around 5.000/6.000 BC, when the first ruminants were domesticated in the Middle East, specifically in Iran (Persia) according to many hostorians. A thousands of years later, around 4.000 BC, the first sheep and goats appear on the shores of the Mediterranean. Seems the production of cheese predates recorded history, beginning well over 7,000 years ago. Humans likely developed cheese and other dairy foods by accident, as a result of storing and transporting milk in bladders made of ruminants' stomachs, as their inherent supply of rennet would encourage curdling. The lump in the walls of the stomach and the heat caused the milk to coagulate. There is no conclusive evidence indicating where cheese-making originated, possibly Europe, or Central Asia, the Middle East, or the Sahara. Some believe there is enough evidence indicating productions of cheese started first in Persia (Iran).

Cheese-making was known in Europe at the earliest level of Hellenic myth. Ancient Greek mythology credited Aristaeus with the discovery of cheese. From the Myrtle-nymphs (being, either Dryads or Oreads), who raised him on Apollo's behalf, Aristaeus learned useful arts and mysteries, such as dairying; how to prepare milk for cream, butter, oxygala (similar to yogurt) and cheese;

Homer's Odyssey (late 8th century BC) describes the Cyclops producing and storing sheep's and goat's milk and cheese.

Cheese's value as a food was valued by the ancient Greeks so much that they called it a divine gift. The first evidence of sheep and goat farming and of goat and sheep milk is in Greek mythology's story of Zeus birth and infant life. The father of the gods, Zeus, chased by his father Kronos (Saturn), was born in a cave on Mount Dikti (Dikteon Andron) on Crete and was later moved by his mother, Rhea, in another cave, the Ideon Andron (Mt Idi / Psiloritis, highest mountain of Crete) in order for Kronos to loose further Zeus trails. In the Ideon Andron cave Zeus grows up protected by the Cretan warriors Kourites, with the milk of a goat, Amalthea and feeds on the dairy products of Crete.

The livestock of Crete has not changed its character since then. It relies on small animals, sheep and goats and not at all on cows. Also in free grazing or limited stable livestock. The animals of Crete are free all year round or in mitata and feed almost exclusively on wild Cretan herbs and shrubs.

In the plains and mountains of Crete, plants and shrubs grow naturally with a special aroma and high nutritional value. This peculiarity of the flora, in combination with the local animal breeds, contributes to having a product with a special character. The local animal breeds are fully acclimatized to the climatic conditions of the island and so there is no need to use drugs and antibiotics.

The traditional form of animal husbandry is based on the experience of many centuries with the only essential difference that the milk is no longer processed next to the flocks but in cheese production establishments that maintain the traditional forms of cheese-making, while meticulously observing all the rules of hygiene and food safety, based on the standards set by the European Community.


The earliest direct evidence of cheese-making is now being found in clay sieves (holed pottery) over 7.000 years old (for example in Kujawy, Poland and also at the Dalmatian coast in Croatia, the latter with dried remains which chemical analysis suggests was cheese). Shards of holed pottery were also found in Urn field pile-dwellings on Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland and are hypothesized to be cheese-strainers, dating back to 6.000 BCE.

The earliest written evidence of cheese is the Sumerian cuneiform texts of Third Dynasty of Ur, dated at the early second millennium BC. The earliest cheeses were sour and salty and similar in texture to rustic cottage cheese or present-day Greek Feta. In Late Bronze Age the Minoan-Mycenaean Crete, Linear B tablets recorded the inventorying of cheese, (Mycenaean Greek in Linear B: tu-ro; later Greek: τυρός) flocks and shepherds.
See: History of Cheese (by wikipedia)
In 2014, world totals for processed cheese include:

from skimmed cow milk, 2.4 million tonnes (leading country, Germany, 845,500 tonnes)
from goat milk, 523,040 tonnes (leading country, South Sudan, 110,750 tonnes)
from sheep milk, 680,302 tonnes (leading country, Greece, 125,000 tonnes)
from buffalo milk, 282,127 tonnes (leading country, Egypt, 254,000 tonnes)

Cretan Cheeses & Dairy

the purpose of this page is to provide insightful info about the cheeses and dairy products of the island of Crete, the typical, most popular and traditional Cretan cheeses, the producers of cheeses from Crete, info on cheese and culinary facts and Cretan & Greek recipes from mainland Greece.

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