Dairy Is Paleo (Goat Dairy that is…) Part#1/3

by Ravi, Part #1 of 3

Dairy is a Paleolithic Human Foodstuff

Paleo-Purists will palpitate, and the science-hounds will howl for hard evidence. Well – if there was hard evidence for or against everything we all choose to question, there would be no need to ever postulate, would there?

Here is my case for the claim that we have, in fact, had dairy products from goats stretching far back into our paleolithic roots.

In this 3 part discussion I will first expound on the shortcomings of the conventional scientific method as pertinent to domestication theory.  Science repeatedly chases and/or builds sand castles on un-proven theories only to find, at some later point, that they were a poor basis for sometimes years of research and studies. In part 2, I then talk about how goat/human interactions could well be many tens of thousands of years older than currently speculated as indicated by unanswered genetic data that profiles a very different possible time frame for more intimate goat/human association.  I investigate the concept of domestication – what exactly is it both in paleolithic terms and modern terms, and finally in part 3, I explore how the nutritional evidence, in a variety of ways,  indicates many human populations have had a long association with the consumption of goat milk and goat milk dairy products, especially in relation to cow milk consumption – cow dairy almost certainly being a more recent and probably a neolithic nutritional adjunct.

Conventional Domestication Theory and Its Shortfalls

According to conventional anthropological theory, goats have been mingling with humans as “domesticated” animals for about 10,000 years in places like Iran, India, Turkey and Pakistan. Currently accepted dating of the forming relationships between humans and goats is actually based on 50 year old studies and methods used to date the domestication of goats and sheep in these regions (Braidwood and Howe, 1960). Although I am not prepared to completely challenge their applied methods, I will simply cast my aspersions by questioning that methodology and the subsequent un-proven adoption of it as a kind of standard. The adoption of un-proven assumptions, as logical and well-argued as they may be, as a basis for subsequent conclusive proofs is one of the repeated shortcomings of the flow of modern scientific research. We are often discovering proofs, along with huge amounts of subsequent conclusions, have been erroneously based on unverified established methods that are themselves, theoretical.

Other “Scientific” Assumptions Gone Astray

Numerous glaring cases come immediately to mind. For example, the assumed-correct ideas about cholesterol/saturated fat and heart disease proposed by Ancel Keys and the 50+ years of research and trials that were interpreted to support his now-highly-suspect assertions. A recent deconstruction of “The China Study” by rising internet nutritional-analyst  Denise Minger, has convincingly picked apart the author Dr. Colin Campbell’s assertions regarding animal products causing heart disease.  Dr. Campbells assertions are based on conjecture about animal fat and protein consumption that is increasingly under scrutiny. Also consider the now (finally!) officially questioned safety of amalgam-mercury fillings by the FDA, a 150+ year ill-fated human experiment. Scientific research clearly can be led far astray by the strong, vocal opinions of people in prominent positions, effectively stifling real, objective progress in a specific discipline for decades or even centuries. An excellent paper (in a peer-review med journal) talks about the many reasons why published research findings are usually false.

How Is Domestication Determined by Conventional Methods?

The questionable science being employed to establish the date of goat domestication is the use of defined “markers”, goat characteristics and traits assumed (yes, assumed) to be connected to and dependent on the action of domestication. Things used as markers include reduction in animal size vs. wild, as well as genetically driven changes in body physiology in response to assumed domestication pressures exerted by the specific needs of the herders/breeders keeping the animals under their husbandry. The identifying of these factors is calculated speculation – not necessarily unreasonable, but also not by any means adequate to explain all possibilities (and time frames) of human/goat associations. It is, as I said, speculative.

Nothing so broad and dynamic as the relationship of a multitude of diverse human populations to their environment over 10’s of thousands of years can be so broadly generalized from an artificial set of narrowly-defined parameters. This is especially significant in the case of goats as these creatures display much of the same intellectual and “personality” capabilities that have made dogs an integral companion of humans/human ancestors for many tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) of years. The domestication of the wolf is also contentious as studied genetic changes indicate that the wolf/dog separation was over 100,000 years ago, however, actual accepted evidence of dog domestication dates back only several tens of thousands of years, quite a discrepancy.

Certain investigators have “proposed that such-and-such could be used to indicate domesticated changes in body structures or population distributions” and then the research goes on from there. Simply put, there is no way, short of a time machine, to really nail down what would indicate, in a domestic breed, exactly when and especially exactly why these markers/changes have taken place in their species. The possible array of explanations for a multitude of factors needs to be considered in creating a legitimately reasonable theory for human/goat association, not just an un-proven and perhaps even irrelevant set of assumed parameters.

Faulty Assumptions Leading to Faulty Conclusions

An excellent example of this possibly-faulty reasoning is that reduction in body size has been used as a “marker” for goat domestication that can be genetically tracked to the 10k years ago domestication theory. Confoundingly, gazelles have also experienced a marked reduction in overall body size for their species in similar time frames and gazelles have never been domesticated (Zeder, 2006). I would postulate that other pressures and explanations, such as increasing human population hunting pressures, may well reduce overall species stature as the genetically-larger animals would be the prized game and heavy hunting of that species would cull many of the larger genes out of the gene pool. After all, conventional thinking has no problem speculating that we hunted the grand Mammoth species to extinction, why would not humans as a hunting group, be able to alter the trajectory of a species’ characteristics by substantial hunting pressures?  A theory too, and no better or worse than attempting to squeeze  ill-fitting evidence and data into conventionally accepted fertile crescent domestication theory.

Could not the increasingly sedentary lifestyle – associated with the agricultural revolution in the fertile crescent – be, in itself, the reason that the breeding needs then applied to already-kept goats changes their physiology? There is simply no hard evidence to determine that goats were not already intimately associated (tamed) with humans before the claimed evidence of “domestication”. The needs arising from goats kept by sedentary populations of humans would undoubtedly be significantly different than the needs of a meandering HG (hunter-gatherer) group with dogs and goats tagging along. The very term “domestication” directly implies a “domicile” or stationary home. The definition is self-limiting as mobile, nomadic HGs would have no such stationary home and therefore nothing they would have done would have been, by definition, “domestic”.

Can Goats travel with Wandering Nomadic Hunter-Gatherers?

While contemplating the above, I started wondering what groups of human populations in our modern day are still nomadic/pastoralists? Surprisingly, there are quite a few. Nomads and pastoralists still roam, scattered in the yet-remote regions on the planet. Most are becoming more restricted in their nomadic wanderings as civilization is increasingly encroaching on their traditional territories.  Nevertheless, many still live closely to their old ways. Nomadic/pastoralist people include the Norwegian “Lapp” people who herd reindeer and keep goats, Bedouins of Arabic countries who keep camels and goats, Tibetian nomads who keep yaks and goats, the Kuchi people of Afganistan who keep sheep and goats, the Sarıkeçili tribe of Turkey who keep and breed mainly goats, the Hmong of Loas who keep buffalo, sheep and goats, European Gypsies who keep horses, donkeys and goats, and many, many more. In fact, it is hard to find an example of a nomadic or pastoralist population that still exists that does not keep goats with goat products – cheese, milk, and meat – being an integral part of their overall nutrition. Most, if not all of these people are definitely not decedents of fertile crescent agriculturalists. Why, over several hundred thousand years of evolution, would upright walking, increasingly intelligent human ancestors not be capable of husbanding animals while living a nomadic life? We have ample and increasing evidence that paleolithic people engaged in a full spectrum of increasingly advanced human behaviors. Modern nomadic and pastoralist groups have no special skills, conditions or tools that our paleolithic ancestors (certainly the upper paleolithic people) would not have had in regards to keeping goats and other manageable beneficial animals.

Finally in this vein: How fast would these genetic markers said to indicate “domestication” take to appear? How long prior to the specific fertile crescent herding needs/pressures would it take for the wild species to show these so called signs of domestication? And more significantly, would the capturing, taming and keeping of goats even necessitate the species to genetically modify itself if no such pressure was exerted on them by their human HG keepers? I think not. The assumptions upon which the dating of domestication is based is clearly limited and self-serving to fit the conventional theories regarding the 10,000 year old domestication thinking already in place.

I understand that conjecture is, for good reason, frowned upon under our current scientific paradigm, but what about these initial assumptions and the very essence of “domestication” itself? Can we not, with equal validity, start with the assumption that domestication was not so uniformly intent on a few ill-defined variables and also not a phenomenon specifically related to the settling of humans as agriculturalists? The emergence of these change “markers” used to theorize a neolithic domestication of animals could well be more a result of the changes of human habits – humans that had already long kept goats as companions and nutritional sources. There are many more indications that this could be the case.

Part #2 IS UP! Click Here to read

The Definition of “Domestication”

and a Significant Genetic Goat Study at Odds with Itself.

http://ws.amazon.com/widgets/q?ServiceVersion=20070822&MarketPlace=US&ID=V20070822%2FUS%2Fdai0a-20%2F8010%2Fd672b583-3746-495b-8cf4-528d43b575da&Operation=GetDisplayTemplate Amazon.com Widgets

Part #2 IS UP! Click Here to read

Please join the conversation about dairy and its place in the Paleo/Primal Diet here:


11 Responses to Dairy Is Paleo (Goat Dairy that is…) Part#1/3

  1. Jane says:

    You know that paper ‘Stable isotope evidence for European Upper Paleolithic human diets’ (MP Richards 2009), saying ‘ …the evidence indicates
    that animal, not plant, protein was the dominant protein source for all of the humans measured. … ‘

    Do you think some of this protein could have come from milk?

    • daiaravi says:

      Hello Jane,
      As I have repeatedly said, I am a layman using my best reasoning to question the accepted CW handed to us by so-called experts. What i find amusing is that it can so often be easily picked apart. I appreciate the reference – clearly you don’t need me to answer that question you posed based on the study you have unearthed – and it seems obvious that digging up this obscure study – although marginally related to my post, is a direction that adds no more credible conjecture to my hypothesis than the broader considerations of the basis of the domestication theory itself. I would not have considered that paper of consequence to my discussion additionally as it states what i already feel is the bloody obvious – that we evolved eating predominantly meat and animal products and it sheds no possible light to whether these animal products were goat dairy related.

      I am being as polite as I can here, Jane, and answering this time, but please understand that i will not approve endlessly digressing comments on these threads – we seek pertinent, related discussions of the issues presented if comments are to be made. If you or others turn up studies, evidence or discussions of paleolithic goat keeping or animal husbandry of any kind, those references are welcome.

  2. Jane says:

    You have misunderstood me. I think your article is excellent, and I am very glad somebody is doing this work. I think you are just as qualified to do it as any scientist. I really am interested to know what you think about the finding I mentioned. Is it possible that the evidence apparently showing ancient humans ate vast quantities of meat was misinterpreted? Might we have eaten both meat and dairy products? It would make far more sense, to me anyway.

    • daiaravi says:

      Actually i did understand, but the question you pose is calling for a purely speculative answer that anyone could risk an opinion about. Protein consumed could be anything non-industrial that we eat, No? Of course I personally believe that it could have been dairy- thus the post –
      i ran across a study that tested (i think i remember) a 4000 year old remains from sweden who was lactose-intolerant – the scientists speculate from that the current population of sweden is not the same genetic people as the remains they found and dated. Typical un-warranted, broad speculation yet again from anthropologists trying to substantiate speculative theory. What if that particular person happened to be the one of the few in the population that was lactose intolerant in a group that did eat dairy? like taking one grain of black sand off a almost -white beach and calling it a black sand beach.
      but i digress – Jane, if you find some interesting information regarding evidence of actual animal husbandry in paleo times – i would be pleased if you share it, but i all already choosing my direction for my speculations and your last offering – although interesting – does not, in my view, lend any more credence to this conversation.

      I want to add here for anyone else reading this thread, that i have experienced Jane (the commenter i am answering) in another blog and have watched with some curiosity how, although intelligent in her comments, Jane tends to drag conversations off in tangents that don’t always contribute to the discussion. I do not want to be unfriendly, but having spent many many hours preparing this post to discuss a certain aspect of our nutrition, i don’t want any discussion here to be pulled off in less-than-meaningful directions.

  3. gallier2 says:

    Very good speculations indeed and one of your examples illustrates it perfectly, the Saami people of scandinavia with their reindeers. Reindeers can not be considered as domesticated animals, I suppose they could get along without their human masters. But the Saami profit from them and eat and drink their milk, use their leather and horns. There’s nothing that wouldn’t have been possible 40000 years ago and it wouldn’t have given a lot of archeological traces. Hell, even european societies from 10000 years ago left nearly no traces. If it wasn’t for stone monuments like the menhir and dolmen, or for stonehenge, modern archeologist would think Europe was a desert.

    • daiaravi says:

      Thanks so much – yes! that is exactly what i am positing – and i had not actually thought of the still-basically-untamed (and certainly not “domesticated” by any means) nature of the reindeer (from the Lapp peoples) and your additional example of the Saami. I don’t want to beat-up on the studious accomplishments of our academic world (after all, i have a pre-med switched to theater arts BA degree – woooooo! 😉 ) but somehow their speculation has become soooo narrow that even common sense observations get tossed without reasonable consideration.

  4. gallier2 says:

    Just for nitpicking, the Saami are the Lapp people, Saami is how they call themselves, Lapp is more the swedish designation.
    You’re right to point out the incredible close mindedness of academia. In Universities there’s often a nurturing of a superiority complex that is staggering. Mastering complex maths and notions does not forbid to use ones simple deductive logic and simple concepts.

  5. daiaravi says:

    ouch – got me – my researching only named them as the “Lapp” in the several sources i found and I’m not educated in the details of each group. Although I had certainly heard of the Lapp people and their reindeer before this investigation, I had not heard of the Saami – thanks for the correct!

  6. Jane says:

    I am greatly looking forward to parts 2 and 3 of this series. I will let you know if I find anything that might interest you.

  7. Pingback: Perfect Health Diet » Around the Web

  8. Sarah Smith says:

    Wow, this is a very interesting series! Thanks for writing it out.

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