Since the domestication of wild animals by ancient humans, milk was processed and used as a secondary raw food materia. As confirmed by protein studies and analysis conducted on the teeth of ancient Mongolian nomads, nomads of the Mongolian region have consumed animal milk and dairy products from as early as 5000 years ago. For example, cow or sheep milk proteins were found in the human teeth discovered in the Afanasievo culture (3316-2918 BCE) burial located in the Shatar Stone monument site of the Bayankhongor province’s Erdenetsogt soum. Whereas sheep or goat milk proteins were found in the human teeth at the Yagshiin Khuduu site of the Khovd province’s Bulgan soum and the Khundii Gobi site of the Bayan-Ulgii province’s Ulaankhus soum. However, the human teeth unearthed from the Ulaan Zuukh burial, which belongs to 1800–1200 BCE, were found to contain more processed dairy products rather than milk proteins.
The tradition of milk and dairy products
Mongolian cuisine, consumption and traditions, as well as the versatility of the native livestock in harmony with the region’s conditions, surrounding nature and climate, are interconnected. In particular, the consumption of dairy and meat products derived from animal husbandry was practiced according to seasonal suitability. During the fall and winter seasons, Mongolians traditionally consumed meat-based foods or dried dairy products, whereas during the spring and summer seasons they typically consumed dairy based foods due to the abundance of fresh milk provided by the more temperate climate. This reflects the Mongolian people’s traditional knowledge of food and consumption. Although the types of foods consumed vary depending on the seasons, geographical regions also play a part in preparing food supply. For instance, there are differences between the dietary customs and practices of people who live in western Mongolia, the steppe, and the Gobi. This is because their livestock is better suited to the local climate and environment. As a result, the commodities and consumption patterns of the western, central, and southern Mongolians are in line with their respective environments and the region-specific livestock that are essential to animal husbandry.