Archaeologists have just discovered the most ancient and intact cheese that has ever been found anywhere in the world, and it was recovered from the Egyptian tomb of Ptahmes, the mayor of Memphis, after being left there 3,200 years ago.
The tomb that holds Ptahmes, who was originally mummified and laid to rest in the 13th century BC, was initially discovered back in 1885. However, intense storms over the years caused the Egyptian mayor’s tomb to be completely obscured by sand, and it was only just found again in 2010, as Phys.org report.
Many years after this rediscovery, archaeologists noticed that there were some jars that had been left behind in the tomb. One of these contained a solid white substance with fabric delicately covering the jar, and this has turned out to be the oldest cheese not just in Egypt, but anywhere in the world.
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. To identify the substance, Italian researchers first completely dissolved the contents of the jar, and then took its protein constituents so that they could be put through a process that would purify them.
After this, scientists used mass spectrometry and liquid chromatography to analyze these proteins, and by looking at the peptides made, the shocking discovery that the white substance that was found in the Egyptian tomb was actually solid cheese.
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. The cheese would also have once been of the hard variety, as Dr. Enrico Greco, a chemical scientist from Catania University, explained.
“The material analyzed in this study is probably the most ancient archaeological solid residue of cheese ever found to date. The constituting material was a dairy product obtained by mixing sheep or goat and cow milk.”
Eating the world’s oldest cheese may prove deadly as scientists believe that it has been contaminated with the bacterium known as Brucella melitensis, which is easily transmitted from animals to humans through the consumption of unpasteurized dairy products.
As Dr. Greco further stated, the cheese found in the Egyptian tomb will undoubtedly remain the oldest cheese in the world, possibly forever.
“In conclusion, even if very ancient kefir or milk or dairy residues, coming from North African, Chinese and European excavations have been found and analyzed, the present sample represent the oldest solid cheese so far discovered.”
The new study on the discovery of the world’s most ancient cheese that was found in the Egyptian tomb of Ptahmes has been published in Analytical Chemistry.