Published: Sat, August 18, 2018
Medicine | By Tracy Klein

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

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

The tomb that holds Ptahmes, who was originally mummified and laid to rest in the 13th century BC, was initially discovered back in 1885.

'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 wrote. Identifying B. melitensis represents the first biomolecular evidence of the disease from the Pharaonic Period.

Scientists have discovered that a solidified whitish substance in an ancient jar dug up in Egypt is "probably the most ancient archaeological solid residue of cheese ever found".

"It would be high in moisture, it would be spreadable", he said.

"The archaeologists suspected it was a kind of food left for the owner of the tomb and they made a decision to ask for chemical analyses", Dr. Greco of Sicily's University of Catania told Australian media.

At the time, researchers were unaware of the presence of cheese, and the tomb was later lost under drifting sands.

'The constituting material was a dairy product obtained by mixing sheep or goat and cow milk'.

The ancient mayor also served as army chief, overseer of the treasury, and royal scribe under Seti I and his son and successor, Ramses II, who lived well over 3,000 years ago.

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.

The whitish solidified mass was found during the excavation work between 2013 and 2014, along with a canvas fabric which may have been used to cover the jar, possibly to preserve its contents, a study published this week in Analytical Chemistry said. The finding may suggest that "Egyptians ate contaminated cheese or milk". The tomb was rediscovered in 2010, and three years later, archeologists opened the tomb and found broken jars at the site, said Enrico Greco, lead author of the study.

Greco's cheese was dated back to Egypt's 19th dynasty, thousands of years before the scientific basis of pasteurization, food safety and even germ theory would be conceived.

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