It’s one of the earliest-known solid pieces of cheese ever discovered.
When archaeologists re-excavating the tomb of Ptahmes, mayor of ancient Memphis, Egypt, found jars filled with a solid, white substance, they suspected it might be some kind of food and, it turns out, they were right. Further testing has proved that the substance is, indeed, a 3,200-year-old cheese, the New York Times reports. The age and composition of the cheese as just been verified by chemical testing by scientists from the University of Catania and Cairo University, the findings of which were published last month in the academic journal Analytical Chemistry.
Yes, in an attempt to take things of importance from the material world with them into the afterlife, even the Egyptians figured they’d probably want some cheese to snack on. What could be more important than that? While it’s not the oldest known cheese—traces of dairy products like cheese and yogurt have been detected on pottery going back 9,000 years—it is one of the oldest pieces of solid cheese ever found. And yet, the cheese might never have seen the light of day again if some pesky sand dunes had their way. The burial site was first discovered in 1885 but lost thereafter until it was re-discovered in 2010.
So what was ancient Egyptian cheese like? According to the Times, it was probably the consistency of chèvre. “It would be high in moisture; it would be spreadable” and would have a “really, really acidy” bite, University of Vermont professor and cheese expert Paul Kindstedt explained. Kinstedt also said the fresh cheese would probably spoil quickly. Okay, but what about after a few thousand years?
Well, apparently some archeologists back in the 1940’s found a similar cheese and wrote in their findings that it had “no smell and only a dusty taste.” That we probably could have guessed. Still, if you’re looking for something to pair this ancient cheese with, how about some 8,000-year-old wine or 5,000-year-old beer and a slice of 2,000-year-old bread?