Inside A 3,200-Year-Old Egyptian Tomb, World's Oldest Cheese Found

Laverne Higgins
August 18, 2018

The team purified the protein constituents and analyzed them via liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry.

"We do not have much information on what the taste could be, we know it was made mostly from sheep's and goat's milk, but for me, it's really hard to imagine a specific flavor".

The canvas further supports the cheese theory as the fabric type suggests the container was once home to a solid.

The study found signs of bacteria potentially causing the deadly disease brucellosis, caught through the ingestion of unpasteurized dairy products. Identifying B. melitensis represents the first biomolecular evidence of the disease from the Pharaonic Period. Archaeologists in Egypt now have the chance to find out, but it comes with an unexpected bonus: deadly ancient bacteria.

"One of these contained a solidified whitish mass, while a canvas fabric which might have covered it or used for its preservation was found in one of the fragments of the jar".

Pulled from the tomb of the late Ptahmes, 13th-century BC mayor of Memphis, Egypt, and still encased in the broken jar it was packed into, it hasn't fared well through all those years locked away in the depths of the desert earth.

"The archaeologists suspected it was a kind of food left for the owner of the tomb and they chose to ask for chemical analyses", Dr. Greco of Sicily's University of Catania told Australian media. The cheese was found wrapped with canvas inside a broken jar.

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The characteristics of the cloth indicate it was suitable for keeping a solid rather than a liquid.

The tomb was initially discovered back in 1885, but was "lost" after being buried under drifting sands.

'The constituting material was a dairy product obtained by mixing sheep or goat and cow milk'.

'The sample in this study was discovered during the excavation procedures of Cairo University in the season 2013-2014.

Greco said not everything in the jar was cheese because the site underwent "a series of very high cyclical environmental stresses", contaminating the cheese with sand and soil.

'The sample was accurately collected in order to avoid any kind of contamination'. All the scientific work points to the sample being a solid cheese.

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