World's oldest cheese found in Egyptian tomb

Four pillars from the Tomb of Ptahmes in the Rijksmuseum van Oudheden in Leiden the Netherlands

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.

The very vintage cheese was buried alongside Ptahmes - Mayor of the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis - whose resting place was rediscovered in 2010 after being lost under the desert sand.

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.

Brucellosis is still around today, and present in Australia - previous year there was concern about the disease spreading from pigs to humans and dogs in Queensland and New South Wales.

After dissolving the sample, the researchers purified its protein constituents and analyzed them with liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. This revealed peptides which indicated that the substance was a dairy product, and that it was made from cow milk and sheep or goat milk. If transmitted to humans, symptoms take the form of a generalized illness that includes aches and pains, appetite loss, headache, weakness, and abdominal pain.

Alongside the jar, the archaeologists found a canvas cloth that they believe was used to cover or preserve the jar's contents.

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"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".

This potentially deadly disease spreads from animals to people, typically from eating unpasteurized dairy products.

To date, only indirect signs of brucellosis have been discovered on Egyptian bones that date back to 750 BCE. Not only did the team find the world's oldest cheese, but they also found the first reported biomolecular evidence of this disease.

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

Publishing their work in the American Chemical Society's journal Analytical Chemistry, the researchers say further analysis is needed to confirm the cheese's age.

Researchers from the University of Catania in Italy and Cairo University in Egypt stumbled upon the cache during an excavation mission in 2013-14.



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