World’s oldest cheese found in Egypt

Modesto Morganelli
Agosto 17, 2018

The cheese in question was discovered among a large cache of broken clay jars inside the tomb of Ptahmes, former mayor of Memphis (ancient Egypt, not Tennessee) and a high-ranking official during the reigns of pharaohs Seti I and Ramesses II.

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

The peptides detected by these techniques show the constituting material was a dairy product obtained by mixing sheep/goat and cow milk.

To the many attributes of Ptahmes - scribe of Ramses II, high priest of Amun, mayor of Memphis - we can add one that is a little more familiar: cheese-lover.

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

The absence of other specific chemicals provide further evidence the dairy product was a hard cheese. If confirmed, it would also be the earliest evidence of the disease.

But researchers believe the original piece of cheese weighed hundreds of grams, said Greco, who was a doctoral candidate at the University of Catania in Italy at the time.

They found signs of a bacterium known in modern medicine to cause brucellosis, a highly contagious disease that can be transmitted from infected animals to humans through unpasteurized meat and dairy products.

But it was quickly forgotten when it was once more covered by drifting sands - until excavations backed by the Egyptian government that began in 2005.

"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".

The problem for those researcher's way back then was that the tomb was later lost to the sands of the desert and wasn't rediscovered until 2010.

The sample was excavated at the Saqqara necropolis near Cairo between 2013 and 2014.

"The characteristic of the canvas made it unsuitable for containing liquid or, in general, non solid-materials".

The tomb that holds Ptahmes, who was originally mummified and laid to rest in the 13th century BC, was initially discovered back in 1885.

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

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