Substance in dug up Egyptian jar 'most ancient' cheese

Nora Nguyen
August 18, 2018

According to The London Economic, scientists determined that this very special and ancient cheese was made by using a combination of cow's milk mixed with either the milk of sheep or goats.

But other proteins in the food suggest it was contaminated with Brucella melitensis - a bacterium that causes potentially deadly brucellosis. Not only did the team find the world's oldest cheese, but they also found the first reported biomolecular evidence of this disease.

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.

A jar found contained solidified whitish mass. In one of the jars a "solidified whitish mass" was found together with a canvas fabric that may well have been once used to cover the jar's contents.

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The world's oldest solid cheese has been found inside the tomb of Ptahmes in Saqqara, part of the necropolis of the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis.

Researchers may have discovered a jar of the world's oldest cheese in the tomb of an ancient Egyptian mayor, but - frustratingly for turophiles - the taste of the bacteria-laced sample is likely to remain a mystery.

It's typically the result of eating unpasteurized dairy products.

Dr Greco said: 'The interactions for thousands of years with the strong alkaline environment of the incorporating soil rich in sodium carbonate and the desertic conditions did not prevent the identification of specific peptide markers which showed high stability under these stressing conditions'.

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

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

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

However, it did take quite a bit of work to reach the determination that the white substance found in the Egyptian tomb was actually cheese.

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'The sample was accurately collected in order to avoid any kind of contamination'. In his tomb scientists found the remains of a hard cheese that had been maturing for 3,300 years.

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