The ancient cheese, which is around 3,300 years old, was found in the tomb of Ptahmes, mayor of the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis. Researchers from the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research, Italy’s Catania University and Cairo University in Egypt worked on the project, studying broken jars at the site.
“One jar contained a solidified whitish mass, as well as canvas fabric that might have covered the jar or been used to preserve its contents,” said the researchers, in a statement. “After dissolving the sample, the researchers purified its protein constituents and analyzed them with liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry. The peptides detected by these techniques show the sample was a dairy product made from cow milk and sheep or goat milk.”
The canvas covering appears to be more suitable for containing a solid, as opposed to a liquid. “Other peptides in the food sample suggest it was contaminated with Brucella melitensis, a bacterium that causes brucellosis,” the researchers added. “This potentially deadly disease spreads from animals to people, typically from eating unpasteurized dairy product.”
The research has been published in the American Chemical Society’s journal Analytical Chemistry.