3,200-Year-Old Cheese Was Just Uncovered In An Egyptian Tomb

Cheese should be well-aged. Some are aged for a month, some for a few weeks, and some for upward of 9 to 12 months. But, most of the time, it doesn’t take much longer than that. 

It definitely doesn’t take 3,200 years.

But that’s a team of archeologists found a few years ago while sorting through sand in an ancient tomb in Egypt. The team came across broken jars, one of which was filled with this strange, unknown white substance. Guesses were made, and the substance was sent in for testing.

In a new analysis in the American Chemical Society’s Analytical Chemistry the 3,200-year-old substance they found was ancient cheese. 

The tomb belonged to a top official and mayor of the ancient city of Memphis, Ptahmes, from the 13th century. 

Enrico Greco co-wrote the report for the journal, and serves as a Research Assistant at Peking University in Beijing, China. He explained the first few rounds of testing confirmed the mysterious white stuff was food:

“The archaeologists suspected it was food, according to the conservation method and the position of the finding inside the tomb, but we discovered it was cheese after the first tests.”

Greco also confirmed that this is the oldest cheese in the world:

“This is the oldest solid cheese ever found.” 

As far as the taste and consistency goes, no one can say for sure. The ancient cheese is infused with a bacteria called brucella melitensis, which can be fatal to humans, making it inedible. Greco reported that, according to tests, the cheese is made of cow, sheep, and goat milk:

“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.”

Professor Paul Kindstedt of University of Vermont noted that the cheese would be similar to chevre, with a “really, really acidy” kick to it. He also said it would be best eaten fresh:

“It would be high in moisture; it would be spreadable. It would not last long; it would spoil very quickly.”

Well…at least this makes our month-old leftovers look a lot better by comparison?

Twitter also has some ideas as to what archeologists can do with the cheese:

Ancient grilled cheese, anyone? Wine and cheese plate? 

H / T – NYTimes, Telegraph, The Joy of Cheesemaking