3,300-Year-Old Cheese Found in Saqqara

News August 17, 2018

(Courtesy Enrico Greco, University of Catania)
Egypt Saqqara cheese
(Courtesy Enrico Greco, University of Catania)

CAIRO, EGYPT—Researchers from Cairo University and the University of Catania claim they have found a hunk of the world’s oldest solid cheese in a broken jar in a tomb in Saqqara, Egypt, according to a Live Science report. The tomb belonged to Ptahmes, a government official who was in charge of the ancient city of Memphis and served during the reigns of Seti I and Ramesses II. The cheese—a powdery, whitish mass discovered in one of the jar fragments—is thought to have been covered with a scrap of canvas that was found nearby. Chemical analysis of the substance detected five proteins commonly found in milk from cows, sheep, goats, and buffalo. Two of those proteins only come from cows. The researchers think the “cheese-like product” was made from a mixture of cow’s milk and the milk of either sheep or goats. The scientists also identified a protein associated with Brucella melitensis, a bacterium that causes the disease brucellosis, which is characterized by fever, nausea, vomiting, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. To read about another recent discovery in Saqqara, go to “Queen of the Old Kingdom.”

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