Wednesday, 17 July, 2019

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
Anna Jefferson | 17 August, 2018, 22:12

And, in a study published by the journal Analytical Chemistry this week, they have been pretty clear that this gunk was cheese.

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

But for Dr. Enrico Greco, an Italian researcher who led an effort to chemically analyze what his team called "probably the most ancient archaeological solid residue of cheese ever found to date", the expired snack is just as much a snapshot of the distant past as it is a culinary curiosity. One contained a "solidified whitish mass" and a piece of canvas fabric they believe could have been to cover the jar or preserve what's inside it.

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

They found signs of a bacterium known in modern medicine to cause brucellosis, a highly contagious disease that can be transmitted from infected animals to humans through unpasteurized meat and dairy products. "The constituting material was a dairy product obtained by mixing sheep or goat and cow milk".

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 team of archaeologists from the Universities of Cairo and Catania, found the festering cheese buried in a tomb that was first unearthed in 1885. It was soon lost under drifting sands, only to be recovered more than a century later.

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Ptahmes also served as army chief, overseer of the treasury and royal scribe under Seti I and his son and successor, Ramses II, in the 13th century BC.

The cheese was found in broken jars.

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.

During the 2013/2014 excavation season, Cairo University archeologists found broken jars at the site.

'The characteristic of the canvas made it unsuitable for containing liquid or, in general, non solid-materials.

"There are several examples in mural paintings with barter scenes where cheese was represented and certainly it was used in the Egyptian medicine during the Ptolemaic period", he said.

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