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E Greco, O El-Aguizy, MF Ali, S Foti, V Cunsolo, R Saletti and E Ciliberto
The material analyzed in this study is probably the most ancient archaeological solid residue of cheese ever found to date. The sample was collected during the Saqqara Cairo University excavations in the tomb of Ptahmes dated to XIX dynasty. Our biomolecular proteomic characterization of this archaeological sample shows that the constituting material was a dairy product obtained by mixing sheep/goat and cow milk. 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 mark-ers which showed high stability under these stressing conditions. Moreover, the presence of Brucella melitensis has been attested by specific peptide markers providing a direct biomolecular evidence of the presence of this infection in the Ramesside period for which only indirect paleopathological evidence has been so far provided. Finally, it’s worth noting that, although proteomic approaches are successfully and regularly used to characterize modern biological samples, their application in ancient materials is still at an early stage of progress, only few results being reported about ancient food samples. In the absence of previous rel-evant evidences of cheese production and/or use, this study, undoubtedly has a clear added value in different fields of knowledge ranging from archaeometry, anthropology, archaeology, medicine history to the forensic sciences.
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