World's Oldest Cheese Discovered In Egyptian Tomb Contains Potentially Deadly Bacteria

The cheese had been made with a combination cows milk combined with sheep's or goats

The cheese had been made with a combination cows milk combined with sheep's or goats

The team purified the protein constituents and analyzed them via liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry.

This revealed peptides associated with dairy products produced by cow milk and either sheep or goat's milk.

They also considered the characteristics of the canvas fabric, deducing that it was more suitable for containing a solid rather than liquid.

Ancient Egyptians may have dodged a potentially life-threatening bout of illness by not eating the cheese, after researchers found the specimen contained signs of a bacterium known to cause brucellosis, a deadly disease spread from animals to people via unpasteurised dairy. Identifying B. melitensis represents the first biomolecular evidence of the disease from the Pharaonic Period.

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 hunk of "whitish mass" discovered in an Egyptian tomb dates back some 3,200 years, potentially making it the most ancient example of solid cheese ever found.

The tomb of Ptahmes, mayor of Memphis in Egypt during the 13th century BC, was initially unearthed in 1885.

A research team led by University of Catania archaeologist Enrico Greco wanted to analyze the whitish substance to determine its identity.

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'.

It was soon lost under drifting sands, only to be recovered more than a century later.

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. Nearby, they found a scrap of canvas fabric that was likely used to preserve and cover the ancient blob of food.

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

'The sample was accurately collected in order to avoid any kind of contamination'. It is also thought that cheese was included in feasts buried alongside wealthy Egyptians.

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