Butter, Ghee

The history of oils and fats in Mesopotamia begins with butter already in the earliest written records in the late fourth millennium BCE, the Uruk period, with the earliest written cuneiform texts  (A.2.1.08). Whereas then milk from sheep, goats, and cows was processed to produce butter, from the third millennium onwards the written evidence indicates that exclusively milk from goats and cows was used in dairy production, but never from sheep (A.2.1.01).

A new understanding of the product butter was achieved by careful analysis of the Sumerian terminology, the quantities involved and the directions of transfers: Butter was produced from fermented milk, and cheese was a by-product of this process (A.2.1.02, A.2.1.03, A.2.1.04). No heating for true Ghee can be ascertained, but environmental heat may have reduced the water content and thus enhanced the shelf-life of butter (A.2.1.01).

As an ointment, butter was often aromatized as the other oils and fats, but it was also used as a foodstuff, especially for desserts with dates and other fruit.