The cheese, buried with the mummy in an overturned wooden boat wrapped tightly in cowhide, was from an unknown people traveling during the Bronze Age, roughly between 3000 BCE and 450 BCE. The burial conditions created a vacuum-like environment to preserve the cheese—yellow clumps that resembled kefir, a soft cheese made from a combination of milk, yeast and bacteria similar to cottage cheese.
It's unclear why cheese was with the mummy, but researcher Andrej Shevchenko, who led the study, told USA Today it might have been considered the food of the afterlife.
“We not only identified the product as the earliest known cheese, but we also have direct ... evidence of ancient technology,” Shevchenko said to USA Today.
A chemist at Germany's Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, Shevchenko says his team determined it was cheese, and not butter or milk, by analyzing the proteins in the cheese. The study's results will be published in the “Journal of Archaeological Science.”
No crackers, cured meats or other hors d'oeuvres were found with the mummy.
This article originally appeared on Mashable .