Published: Sat, August 18, 2018
Medicine | By Daryl Nelson

World's oldest cheese found in Egyptian tomb

World's oldest cheese found in Egyptian tomb

Jar and canvas discovered inside the tomb of Ptahmes, Mayor of Memphis during the XIX dynasty.

Alongside the jar, the archaeologists found a canvas cloth that they believe was used to cover or preserve the jar's contents.

He and his team will continue to examine other materials found in the tomb of Phtames, which was first unearthed in 1885 before being lost to the shifting sands of the desert again until 2010.

The cheese was a powdery, "whitish mass" likely made form a mixture of cow milk and either goat or cheese milk, the researchers said.

After dissolving the sample, the researchers purified its protein constituents and analyzed them with liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry.

The absence of other specific chemicals provide further evidence the dairy product was a hard cheese. "The constituting material was a dairy product obtained by mixing sheep or goat and cow milk".

But for Dr. Enrico Greco, an Italian researcher who led an effort to chemically analyze what his team called "probably the most ancient archaeological solid residue of cheese ever found to date", the expired snack is just as much a snapshot of the distant past as it is a culinary curiosity.

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No word on how it tastes, but we reckon that 3000-years-old is perhaps a little too aged for our liking.

'While cleaning the sand around the southern outer wall of the tomb, in an area corresponding to one of the lateral storehouses, a big number of broken jars were found.

Study of the canvas fabric found that it was suited to storing solids rather than liquids.

The analysis also suggested the cheese was contaminated with a bacterium that causes brucellosis, a potentially deadly disease that spreads from animals to people.

During the 2013/2014 excavation season, Cairo University archeologists found broken jars at the site.

"The sample was accurately collected in order to avoid any kind of contamination".

In ancient Egypt, milk had to be consumed shortly after milking or else it would spoil without refrigeration, so it was often turned into cheese and other fermented products like yogurt. It is also thought that cheese was included in feasts buried alongside wealthy Egyptians.

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