Grab a baguette and a little vintage 1600 BC wine from the ancient wine cellar, and start enjoying the latest ancient culinary discovery, the world’s oldest cheese.
The cheese was found around the heads and necks of Chinese mummies that date back as early as 1615 BC. It’s the oldest cheese known. How did cheese, which usually goes bad so quickly, survive so many years?
The people from the Bronze Age who buried the mummies interred “their kin underneath what looks like large wooden boats. The boats were wrapped so snugly with cowhide that it’s as if they’d been “vacuum-packed.”
Andrej Shevchenko, an analytical chemist from Germany, who helped to analyze what was found on the mummies and confirmed it was cheese, says it isn’t known exactly why they were buried with cheese. Perhaps it was food for the afterlife. (If I got to choose which foods I wanted in the afterlife, cheese would definitely be among them.)
This cheese, like the ancient wine found or the 3,000-year-old butter recently discovered, isn’t actually edible anymore. But, it does provide some evidence of the cheese making process of the ancient people. It’s believed that this cheese was made by mixing dairy with a kefir starter (a mix of bacteria and yeast) as opposed to a rennet starter (a substance from animal guts).
Article by Robin Shreeves
Image by _gee_