World’s Oldest Cheese Discovered!

Cheese lovers rejoice! The ancient Egyptians have it done once again. After the discovery in July of a mysterious sarcophagus, another important, curse-free discovery was made this month in Egypt - ancient cheese.

An ancient tomb that was initially discovered in the late nineteenth century, but was reburied by drifting sand until 2010, was found with what archaeologists believe was once cheese. The thirteenth century BC tomb belonged to Ptahmes, the mayor of Memphis, Egypt. The jars discovered at his burial site contained an unusual, unidentified white mass. After analysing the material with liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry, researchers found that the peptides they detected belonged to dairy products made from cow, sheep or goat’s milk. A piece of canvas fabric found alongside the burial jars indicated that it was used for protecting a solid material - not liquid. Researchers were able to determine that this was most likely a container that held ancient cheese. While this isn’t the first time ancient cheese has been found, this is the first instance of an aged cheese discovery as opposed to that of yogurt, or fresh cheese that had feremented after being buried.

But what was even more intriguing about the tomb was that they also found traces of Brucella melitensis, a bacterium that causes brucellosi, in the sample. The bacteria, more commonly known as Malta, or Mediterranean fever, is highly  contagious and can be deadly. It can be passed from animals to humans by coming into contact with animal secretions, or by ingesting unpasterized milk or undercooked meat. This discovery is quite possibly the first recorded evidence of the disease.

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