Re: milk and human sociobiology

Gerold Firl (
22 Jan 1997 21:03:33 GMT

In article <>, (John A. Halloran) writes:

|> In article <5c419b$> Mennen) writes:

|> >In <5c3c97$> (Gerold Firl)
|> >writes:
|> >>
|> >>I am interested in the evolution of dairying, both as a cultural
|> >>process and a biological one. In fact, this is a perfect example of a
|> >>process which can *only* occur as a synchronous socio/biological
|> >>evolution, where people learn how to use their domesticates as dairy
|> >>animals and integrate new customs into the culture, while at the same
|> >>time spreading the genes for adult lactose tolerance throughout the
|> >>population. I'm wondering how well that process is understood; I
|> >>haven't seen much comment in the literature.
|> >>
|> >>Based on the limited extant of lactose tolerance among human
|> >>populations (concentrated among speakers of IE, semitic, and
|> >>nilo-saharan languages) it appears that lactose toleration became
|> >>an adaptive trait fairly recently. Campbell cites tentative dates of
|> >>3500-4000 bc for polychrome mosaics of the milking, straining, and
|> >>storing of milk at the temple complex of Obeid in iraq; this is the
|> >>earliest evidence of dairying that I am aware of. Has the dating been
|> >>refined? And does evidence of earlier dairying exist?

|> Who is Campbell? What is your reference, please?

Joseph Campbell, _masks of god_, vol. 2, _oriental mythology_. He
cites a number of early 20th century excavations in Obeid (or al-'Ubaid).

|> >>Here is an interesting question: did the genes for lactose tolerance
|> >>diffuse outward from a single source, or did evolution locally select
|> >>for it in areas where cattle were kept for meat? Actually, both
|> >>processes undoubtedly occured, but which was faster?

|> Another related question is the differences or similarities between the milk
|> of cows, goats, and sheep. The cow was the principal milk animal, but people
|> who have an allergic reaction to bovine protein can usually tolerate goat
|> milk (this is a different issue from lactose intolerance). Goats and sheep
|> were domesticated somewhat earlier than were cattle.

OK - if goat milk were less allergenic than cows milk, that may have
provided an entry to dairying.

|> >Does lactose intolerance (LI) really lead to differnetial reproductive
|> >rates and ultimately, success or failure? Persons with LI can deal with
|> >milk products but get gassy and crampy, etc. It is not fatal.

|> It could be if individuals drank differential amounts due to these symptoms
|> and thus benefitted differentially. And do the systems of individuals with
|> lactose intolerance really utilize milk as efficiently?

Probably not. Without the requisite digestive enzymes, drinking milk
is of little benefit.

LI individuals have to slaughter their domesticates to gain any
nutritive value from the animals fodder-conversion abiliity; milk
drinkers can obtain a continual harvest. Boys among the surma in SW
Ethiopia still subsist largely on blood and milk from cattle; it's an
efficient resource-conversion system, which provides benefits to both
the individual and the larger society. A culture which employs a more
efficient resource-gathering technology will have a competitive
advantage over the neighbors.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf