Lactose tolerance among ancient Indo Europeans and its praise in the Avesta
We read in the Vársht-mánßar commentary of the poetic gathas Yasna 53.7, 4th rhymed verse line about the characteristics of those who are preparing the end of time: They are a manifestation of those, O Spitáman Zartösht who shall cause this renewal/fresh splendor in the worldly existences; they are…. fully mindful and when milk reaches them, they thoroughly digest it.
The Vársht-mánßar commentary continues about the characteristics of those disturbing the end of time and opposing the fresh new splendor of the worlds: ‘They are a manifestation of those, O Spitáman Zartösht who are destroying the existences, they become very quickly devoured and are in the torment of the vicious and grievous abode; they are not mindful, so that it is not possible for them to digest milk.
The Vársht-mánßar commentary is derived from a word play of the sacred gathic verse. In the 4th line of Yasna 53.7 of the poetic gathas, there is talk of añg-haití apémem vačö “the voice/verdict at the end/conclusion of the worldly existence.” The word for the end/maturity of existence apémem is by a word play linked to the word for milk in the Avestan, Compare with Lithuanian pienas Latvian piens.
The gáthic Vársht-mánßar commentary links the ability to digest milk with mental alertness and preparing the end of times and ushering in of a fresh, new universe. It shall be noted that lactose tolerance is/was unique among ancient Aryans or Indo Europeans. Many Africans and Asians are not able to digest lactose at all.
Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending picture the IE expansion as beginning with a very rapid spread across the steppe as soon as the increased frequency of the lactase-persistence mutation became common enough to allow the switch to a dairying economy. Harry Harpending speculates whether the lactose tolerance mutation may have contributed to the first Indo-European expansion.
We also read in the 16th Chapter of Menög Khirad
- The sage asked the spirit of wisdom (2) thus: ‘Of the food which men eat, and the clothing which men put on, which are the more valuable and good?’
- The spirit of wisdom answered (4) thus: ‘Of the food which men eat, the milk is more valuable and good. 5. Because, as to men and quadrupeds, who are born from a mother, until the time when food is eaten by them, their growth and nourishment are then from milk, (6) and on milk they can well live. 7. And if men, when they withdraw from the milk of the mother, make thorough experience of the milk of livestock, (8) then bread is not necessary for use among them. 9. Since it is declared, (10) that “the food of mankind, who are in Arežahi and Savahi, Frada-ðafshü and Vida-ðafshü, Voúrú-bareshti and Voúrú-jareshti, is the milk of goat, sheep and cows; (11) other food they do not eat.” 12. And he who is a milk-consuming man is healthier and stronger, and even the procreation of children becomes more harmless.
Keeping cattle for their milk is/was more efficient than raising cattle for slaughter; it produces about five times as many calories per square kilometer. As the Proto-Indo-Europeans became dairymen they relied more on cattle and less on grain farming, which gave them a major advantage in mobility over other populations.
The archaeological Yamna culture north of the Black Sea from around 3500 BC is according to the Kurgan hypothesis of Marija Gimbutas often identified with speakers of PIE. They appear to have been primarily dairy farmers. Interestingly, the bodies found in Kurgan burials seem to have been much taller than was common in those days, which indicates that these people were more physically fit than their neighbors.
Drinking milk from cows, sheep, goats, horses or camels was a shared trait among many conquering peoples.
In Commentarii de Bello Gallico (Commentaries on the Gallic War), Julius Caesar provides a personal account, written as a third-person narrative, of the Gallic Wars in France, Belgium and parts of Switzerland and the first Roman incursions into Britain. Although written to boost Caesar’s personal standing in Rome and reflecting the traditional disdain for non-Roman “barbarians,” the text nevertheless contains useful bits of historical information. While writing about one Germanic tribe, Julius Caesar mentions that they did not live on grain as much as on milk and cheese and suggests that this diet helped to make them tall, strong warriors.
In conclusion, I shall add that when men benefit from the milk of an animal its flesh because automatically forbidden in the Zoroastrian religion. Zoroastrianism does NOT allow the slaughter and milking of the same animal. Furthermore, the consumption of beef is not allowed in the Zoroastrian religion. While milk is the best of foods, however if it is obtained by cruel methods, or if the animal welfare is not observed, it becomes strictly forbidden; for animal welfare and good treatment of pets and cattle are of paramount importance in Zoroastrianism.