MESIR, NNC - The oldest cheese in the world, nearly 3,200 years old, was discovered at the tomb of Ptahmes, a mayor from the 13th century BC in Memphis, Egypt. According to a recent study in the journal Analytical Chemistry, this cheese is the most ancient solid cheese ever found.
"The sample was wrapped with a canvas into a broken jar," said lead author Enrico Greco, from the University of Catania, Italy.
"The archaeologists suspected it was a kind of food left for the owner of the tomb and they decided to ask for chemical analyses."
The team used unconventional scientific techniques to identify it as solid cheese residue made from cow milk and sheep or goat milk.
The research team also found signs of a bacterium that causes the potentially deadly brucellosis, which spreads from animals to humans through unpasteurized dairy products, according to ABC website.
If the reseachers' suspicions are confirmed, the 3,200-year-old sample will also provide evidence of the oldest biomolecular brucellosis in the world to have been discovered.
Brucellosis still exists today, and is present in Australia - last year there were concerns about diseases that spread from pigs to humans and dogs in Queensland and New South Wales.
"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.
"But until now we were not sure whether it was really part of the daily life of the ancient Egyptians."
Nevertheless, the researchers were not so sure what the ancient cheese taste like.
"We do not have much information on what the taste could be, we know it was made mostly from sheep's and goat's milk, but for me its really hard to imagine a specific flavour," Dr Greco said.
"I'm Italian, I love cheese and I know how much they can change in flavour and appearance even with very few differences in ingredients and process."
Dr Greco, part of the new field of archeofood, is also involved in the discovery of other ancient foods.
"During the last year we found the oldest wine in the world (now become the second) and the oldest Italian olive oil."
He and his team will continue to examine other materials found in the tomb of Phtames, which was first excavated in 1885 before being lost due to a sandstorm and rediscovered in 2010.