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Year-old piece of cheese discovered in an Egyptian tomb

18 August 2018

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

"The characteristics of the canvas fabric, which indicate it was suitable for containing a solid rather than a liquid, and the absence of other specific markers, support the conclusion that the dairy product was a solid cheese", the researchers said. However, it took over a century before researchers and archaeologists were able to return and when a group of archaeologists did between 2013 and 2014, they also discovered several broken jars, one of which contained a odd solid, powdery, and whitish mass as well as a canvass cloth that may have once covered the jar.

"Until now, we were not sure whether it was really part of the daily life of the ancient Egyptians", said Greco. If confirmed, it would be "the first biomolecular direct evidence" of the disease's existence during the pharaonic period, according to the study.

What was in the cheese, however, was Brucella melitensis, a bacterium that causes its potentially deadly namesake disease, brucellosis.

As Dr. Greco further stated, the cheese found in the Egyptian tomb will undoubtedly remain the oldest cheese in the world, possibly forever.

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Ptahmes was Mayor of Memphis and high-ranking official under the Pharaohs Sethi I and Ramses II (1290-1213 BC) of the XIX dynasty.

Researchers from the University of Catania in Italy and Cairo University in Egypt stumbled upon the cache during an excavation mission in 2013-14. After most of its treasures were looted by European excavators, eventually finding their way into museums many thousands of miles away, the tomb itself was lost beneath drifting desert sands.

The cheese had been made with a combination cows' milk combined with sheep's or goats'. One of those broken jars contained a solidified whitish mass inside along with a canvas fabric that could have covered the jar originally.

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

The 3,300-year-old cheese can not be tested for its flavour as it was found to be laced with a deadly bacteria.

Year-old piece of cheese discovered in an Egyptian tomb