Published: Fri, August 17, 2018
Medicine | By Brett Sutton

White stuff from tomb is world's oldest cheese

White stuff from tomb is world's oldest cheese

Despite finding the cheese, scientists have not been able to find the mummified body of Ptahmes nor the rest of his family.

Brucellosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria. If transmitted to humans, symptoms take the form of a generalized illness that includes aches and pains, appetite loss, headache, weakness, and abdominal pain.

While brucellosis is uncommon in the United States, the disease affects hundreds of thousands of people and animals worldwide.

He and his team will continue to examine other materials found in the tomb of Phtames, which was first unearthed in 1885 before being lost to the shifting sands of the desert again until 2010.

The peptides detected revealed the cheese had been made with a combination cows' milk combined with sheep's or goats'.

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.


While the sample from Ptahmes's tomb may have been diseased, ancient people actually used cheese as medicine, Dr Greco said.

It's typically the result of eating unpasteurized dairy products.

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'. The tomb is located south of Cairo in Saqqara, also known as the "City of the Dead", and houses ancient artifacts like amulets, clay vessels, and figurines.

Drifting sands had made sure the cheese remained undiscovered.

Dr Greco added: "In conclusion, even if very ancient kefir or milk or dairy residues, coming from North African, Chinese and European excavations have been found and analysed, the present sample represent the oldest solid cheese so far discovered (3,200 BP)". One of these contained a solid white substance with fabric delicately covering the jar, and this has turned out to be the oldest cheese not just in Egypt, but anywhere in the world.

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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