Canadian T. rex is world’s largest

March 26th, 2019

A study by University of Alberta paleontologists has confirmed that the fossil of a Tyrannosaurus rex found in Saskatchewan is the largest known T. rex specimen in the world.

The first piece of the 66-million-year-old giant was discovered on August 16th, 1991, by Eastend high school teacher Robert Gebhardt who was learning how to find fossils in the field with a team of University of Alberta paleontologists. In the exposed bedrock along Saskatchewan’s Frenchman River Valley, Gebhardt discovered the base of a teeth a tail vertebra. Their size and shape indicated they were from a Tyrannosaurus rex. That night the team celebrated the find with a bottle of Scotch and named the dinosaur after their celebratory tipple.

Getting him out of the rock would take another two decades of painstaking work by paleontologists, students and volunteers. Excavations began in June of 1994, each fossilized bone chipped out of the bedrock by hand one at a time. By the time the last bone had been recovered, it was 2014 and it was clear that not only had they found the Saskatchewan’s first T. rex, but that Scotty was a splendid example.

Approximately 65% of the skeleton was found and puzzled together over years. The reconstructed skeleton indicates Scotty was 43 feet long and weighed around 19,400 pound making him the largest known T. rex ever found. He was also the longest-lived.

“Scotty is the oldest T. rex known,” [U of A paleontologist Scott] Persons explained. “By which I mean, it would have had the most candles on its last birthday cake. You can get an idea of how old a dinosaur is by cutting into its bones and studying its growth patterns. Scotty is all old growth.”

But age is relative, and T. rexes grew fast and died young. Scotty was estimated to have been in its early 30s when it died.

“By Tyrannosaurus standards, it had an unusually long life. And it was a violent one,” Persons said. “Riddled across the skeleton are pathologies — spots where scarred bone records large injuries.”

Among Scotty’s injuries are broken ribs, an infected jaw and what may be a bite from another T. rex on its tail—battle scars from a long life.

Scotty will go on public view at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum this May. The museum has been working assiduously to create a new exhibition space that will do the massive creature justice. The RSM is doing a full renovation and redesign of its upper and lower gallery entrances that will give visitors the opportunity to view Scotty from two perspectives, foot level and eye level. The upper level isn’t just a catwalk or perch, but rather a fully functional second tier that can be used to host events supervised by the unblinking gaze of a T. rex’s eye (socket).

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Sumptuous Aztec offerings found at Templo Mayor

March 25th, 2019

The excavation at the foot of the steps of the sixth stage of the Templo Mayor in Mexico City that discovered the remains of a sacrificed child last year has unearthed a new trove of rich sacrificial offerings including jaguar bones, a set of flint knives, copal bars, shells and starfish.

The jaguar bones were found in a rectangular stone box that is so large Archaeologists from Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH) have barely scratched the surface so far.

Only about one-tenth of the box’s contents has been excavated, but already a wide array of artefacts has been found near the top, including a spear thrower and a carved wooden disk placed on the feline’s back that was the emblem of the Aztec patron deity Huitzilopochtli, the war and sun god.

A layer of aquatic offerings placed on top of the west-facing jaguar have also been identified, including a large amount of shells, bright red starfish and coral that likely represented the watery underworld the Aztecs believed the sun travelled through at night before emerging in the east to begin a new day.

A roseate spoonbill, a pink bird from the flamingo family, has also been found in the offering. It was associated with warriors and rulers, and thought to represent their spirits in their descent into the underworld.

A second stone box was discovered next to the jaguar box. It contains a top layer of copal bars, a type of tree resin burned by Aztec priests like frankincense and sea shells. It has only been partially excavated thus far. A third stone box next to it contains 21 flint knives that, like the remains of the jaguar and the young boy, were decorated with the regalia of warriors complete with a mother of pearl war god disc, a miniature spear thrower and a shield.

The ongoing discoveries of ritually significant offerings at the site while exciting in and of themselves also tender hope that this spot could indeed be the tomb of Aztec king Ahuízotl. According to Spanish chronicles, cinerary remains of three Aztec kings of Tenochtitlan — brothers Axayacatl (1469–1481), Tizoc (1481–1486) and Ahuízotl (1486-1502) — were deposited along with copious offerings and the hearts of sacrificial victims under or near the Cuauhxicalco, a circular platform at the foot of the steps of the Templo Mayor. This is where the pit containing the remains of the sacrificed boy and now the rectangular box have been found.

The cylindrical burial pit is unique among the 204 tombs unearthed at the Templo Mayor, and with the exceptional density of sacrificial offerings that have already been found in the stone box, archaeologists are hoping that they may have indeed found the burial site of the kings described by the Spanish. The construction phase of the temple dates to the reign of Ahuízotl, so all the pieces seem to fit. If the archaeologists’ hopes come to fruition, this would be the first tomb of an Aztec ruler that has ever been found.

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$100 garage sale Buddhist deity sells for $2 million

March 24th, 2019

A gilded bronze figure of a Buddhist deity that was bought at a garage sale in Kirkwood, Missouri two decades ago for less than 100 bucks sold at auction Wednesday for $2.1 million.

The deity depicted in the statuette is Avalokiteshvara, also known as Guanyin among many other appellations and forms. One of those forms, Cintamanicakra, is traditionally depicted holding the wish-granting jewel cintamani in front of his chest as he is here. He sits in the royal rajalilasana posture, his head resting on one of his three right hands. His elaborate updo is embraced by a high diadem trailing long ribbons. He wears beaded necklaces and his chest is crossed by draped and knotted robes. He holds a lotus stem in a left hand at the hip and the dharma wheel in a raised palm. A mala (a string of beads used in meditation) is in another hand. His sixth hand supports the body, planted on the lotus-form seat.

The seller brought the piece to Antiques Roadshow in St. Louis two years ago to find out what it was and how much it was worth.

“I almost didn’t have a chance to acquire it, because I was having 15 people for lunch,” she told appraiser Robert Waterhouse on the show. “There was a local person who was a colorful character in Kirkwood, so I really wanted to get to his garage sale (so) I rushed out.”

She added that she paid “probably between $75 and $100, which was a lot for me. It was about 20 years ago.” […]

Local antiques dealers completely missed the hidden gem in the sale, the owner told “Antiques Roadshow.” “The dealers had been there for two days before, so I thought everything good would be gone,” she said. The figurine had lost almost all its gilt and was missing an arm, “I thought it was so beautiful, I just grabbed it… I didn’t mind the damage.”

She was shocked when Waterhouse told her the gilt-bronze figurine was of such high quality that it was likely of imperial provenance. His conservative estimate for a retail price was $100,000–125,000. He thought it might date to the 15th century Ming Dynasty. Later researcher put the date far further back to the late Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) or early (907-979 A.D.) Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period and.

Sotheby’s auction estimate was even more conservative than Waterhouse’s at $60,000-80,000, but with the market for Chinese antiquities being molten hot, I suspect there was little doubt the piece would far exceed the estimate. Indeed, bidding was fierce and fast, driving the price into the millions. Seven minutes later, the hammer fell at $2,060,000.

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Anglo-Saxon pendant declared treasure

March 23rd, 2019

An Anglo-Saxon gold pendant discovered in 2017 has been officially declared Treasure by the Norfolk Coroner’s Office according to the provisions of the Treasure Act 1996. It was found in an undisclosed location in South Norfolk near the site where another important piece from around the same period, the Winfarthing Pendant, was unearthed in 2014.

The pendant is in excellent condition. It is a small piece, .67 inches by half an inch, of a type known as a cross-in-ring pendant, a style that dates to the late 6th, mid-7th centuries. The ring part is composed of three concentric rings of gold beaded wire. In the center is a beaded wire cross. The outer rim is worn smooth, either from use or in the original crafting of the piece. A small sheet of gold is looped at the top middle. Traces of now-worn ribbed decoration remain.

Ms Shoemark, from Norfolk County Council’s archaeology department, said: “Like the Winfarthing assemblage, this piece most likely belonged to a high-status lady.

“It dates to an important turning point in Saxon history during the first flowering of Christianity [in England] and is of similar date to the jewellery assemblage from the now famous and nearby Winfarthing burial.

“Male graves of this period appear to be entirely lacking in elaborate jewellery.

“This latest pendant makes a valuable contribution to our understanding of Saxon society, religion and the position of women during a period of immense social and cultural change.”

The pendant will now be assessed by a valuation committee. Once its value has been determined, it will be offered to a local museum and the sum split between the finder and landowner. The Winfarthing Pendant was valued at £145,000, but it is much larger and inlaid with garnets reminiscent of some of the pieces in the Staffordshire Hoard.

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Minneapolis Institute of Art acquires breathtaking Japanese textiles

March 22nd, 2019

The Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia) has acquired an exceptional collection of Japanese textiles. The rare and beautiful handmade Japanese garments were assembled by researcher and Asian art collector Thomas Murray over the course of 40 years and were acquired by the museum in a combined purchase and gift.

Murray’s refined taste and depth of knowledge of Japanese textiles has created a collection of superlative condition, quality and breadth. Mia already had very fine collection of Japanese paintings, prints, sculptures and ceramics raises but before this acquisition it only had a few textiles — Noh robes from the theater, silk wedding kimono, early 20th century casual kimono made from meisen silk with bold graphic prints. Murray’s collection of 230 pieces elevates the museum’s Japanese textiles holdings from a handful of items to one of the top collections of Japanese clothing in the world.

The collection features traditional Japanese clothing and fabrics made for home, work, and festival celebrations between the late 18th and early 20th centuries. A kaleidoscope of materials and designs, the acquisition includes exceptionally rare, brightly colored bingata and ikat kimonos and wrapping cloths made of wild banana fiber from subtropical Okinawa, delicately patterned Mingei (folk art) costumes and textiles used by farmers and fishermen from Japan’s largest and most populous islands of Honshu and Kyushu, and boldly patterned garments of elm-bark cloth, nettle fiber, and salmon skin created by the aboriginal Ainu people residing on Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido and formerly found on the Sakhalin island of Siberia. […]

Among the many outstanding textiles in the Murray Collection is an exuberant festival robe decorated with sea creatures and water motifs, used to celebrate a successful fish catch. The robe’s decorations were hand-drawn and painted with a rice paste resist dye technique, tsutsugaki, making this robe one of a kind.

Other important highlights of the collection include Ainu robes which have long been celebrated for their exacting, symmetrical designs revealing the skills and aesthetics of the women who created them. One of these robes is known as a kaparamip, meaning “thin cloth,” because it was made of cotton that was traded from the Japanese mainland. A decorative effect was achieved by using contrasting shades of trade cloth such as indigo that was then overlaid with a white cutout pattern appliqué and accented with red thread in a variety of embroidery stitches.

I asked Andreas Marks, the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s Mary Griggs Burke Curator of Japanese and Korean Art, what the biggest challenges were in conserving such a varied collection. He replied:

The biggest challenges in conservation of textiles are the protection from bugs and mold. This is primarily achieved through a sanitized and climate-controlled environment that includes storage in archival boxes. Furthermore, textiles that enter our collection undergo a time period of freezing that would kill any live insects. That way we can prevent bugs from entering. Certain textiles will have to be stored flat and not folded as they are too brittle because of material and/or age.

The Japanese textiles are currently undergoing conservation and will go on full display in the fall of 2020.

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Nile shipwreck proves Herodotus account

March 21st, 2019

Greek historian Herodotus has had an enduring reputation for indulging in well, let’s just call them embellishments, ever since he wrote The Histories in the 5th century B.C. I fondly recall my 7th grade Social Studies teacher calling him Herodotus the Liar, and scholars have alternately referred to him as the Father of History and the Father of Lies. So even descriptions of things he claimed to have witnessed personally are taken with a grain of salt. His voyage to Egypt, for example, documented in Book II (Euterpe) of The Histories, has been subject of vigorous debate among historians. A number of them have questioned whether he ever stepped foot in the country given how many dubious statements are in his account.

One of those accounts has now been archaeologically verified for the first time. A shipwreck discovered in the sunken city of Thonis-Heraclion fits Herodotus’ detailed description of the construction of a “baris” vessel, a type of trading vessel that was widespread in Egypt. Here the ship as Herodotus saw it built:

The vessels used in Egypt for the transport of merchandise are made of the Acantha (Thorn), a tree which in its growth is very like the Cyrenaic lotus, and from which there exudes a gum. They cut a quantity of planks about two cubits in length from this tree, and then proceed
to their ship-building, arranging the planks like bricks, and attaching them by ties to a number of long stakes or poles till the hull is complete, when they lay the cross-planks on the top from side to side. They give the boats no ribs, but caulk the seams with papyrus on the
inside. Each has a single rudder, which is driven straight through the keel. The mast is a piece of acantha-wood, and the sails are made of papyrus. These boats cannot make way against the current unless there is a brisk breeze; they are, therefore, towed up-stream from the shore: down-stream they are managed as follows. There is a raft belonging to each, made of the wood of the tamarisk, fastened together with a wattling of reeds; and also a stone bored through the middle about two talents in weight. The raft is fastened to the vessel by a rope, and allowed to float down the stream in front, while the stone is attached by another rope astern. The result is that the raft, hurried forward by the current, goes rapidly down the river, and drags the
“baris” (for so they call this sort of boat) after it; while the stone, which is pulled along in the wake of the vessel, and lies deep in the water, keeps the boat straight. There are a vast number of these vessels in Egypt, and some of them are of many thousand talents’ burthen.

The wreck, number 17 of more than 70 vessels that have been discovered at the Thonis-Heracleion site, is larger than the one described by Herodotus. It was an estimated 28 meters (92 feet) long when intact, one of the largest ancient Egyptian trading vessels ever found. Its crescent-shaped hull made of thick planks joined with tenons matches Herodotus’ description very well.

[Director of Oxford University’s Centre for Maritime Archaeology Dr. Damian] Robinson added: “Herodotus describes the boats as having long internal ribs. Nobody really knew what that meant… That structure’s never been seen archaeologically before. Then we discovered this form of construction on this particular boat and it absolutely is what Herodotus has been saying.”

About 70% of the hull has survived, well-preserved in the Nile silts. Acacia planks were held together with long tenon-ribs – some almost 2m long – and fastened with pegs, creating lines of ‘internal ribs’ within the hull. It was steered using an axial rudder with two circular openings for the steering oar and a step for a mast towards the centre of the vessel.

Robinson said: “Where planks are joined together to form the hull, they are usually joined by mortice and tenon joints which fasten one plank to the next. Here we have a completely unique form of construction, which is not seen anywhere else.”

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UK returns looted Nebuchadnezzar boundary stone to Iraq

March 20th, 2019

A 3,000-year-old boundary stone from Babylonia was returned to Iraq in an official ceremony on Tuesday after seven years of investigation and legal wrangling. It’s not clear when the object was stolen — experts believe it was looted during the chaos of the Iraq War around 15 years ago. It surfaced in 2012 when the importer attempted to smuggle the piece into Britain with fake paperwork. The stone arrived at Heathrow airport in May 2012. The customs declaration claimed it was a carved stone made in Turkey worth $330. When a UK Border Force officer opened the box, he recognized the stone was no Turkish fake and that the claimed origin in the declaration had to be fraudulent.

Experts at the British Museum quickly identified it from the copious cuneiform inscriptions as a 12th century B.C. kudurru, a ceremonial boundary stone recording a land grant from the king. There are only 200 known surviving examples of kudurrus, and this one is a stand-out. It describes a gift of land from Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar I to one of his subjects in recognition of his distinguished service. The inscription indicates the stone came from Nippur, an ancient Sumerian city in what is now southern Iraq that was restored and expanded by Babylonian monarchs. Nippur suffered extensive looting in 2003 which is when experts believe the kudurru was stolen.

One side of the stone is covered in images depicting the gods Enlil and Marduk. The other side is inscribed with cuneiform text. In addition to recording the land grant, the text describes an enormously significant period of Babylonian history. It tells of how at the end of the preceding dynasty, Elamite forces had invaded the kingdom, looted the temples and carried away the statue of the god Marduk leaving Babylon bereft not just of the visual representation of the god, but of the protection of the god himself.

Enlil, father of the gods, created Nebuchadnezzar to avenge the outrage done to the Babylonians. The great king invaded Elam, defeated its army and reclaimed the statue of Marduk. He returned it to the temple and all was right with the world again.

“It is such an important moment in Babylonian history. Forever after the Babylonians told stories about this great, brave king who brought Marduk back, and in response they created the Babylonian epic of creation, which tells about how Marduk was appointed to defeat the forces of chaos and to put order into the universe. So, every spring at the new year festival they recite this epic of creation.”

[British Museum curator Jonathan] Taylor said the object also carried “terrible curses” for anyone trying to claim the land or damage the tablet.

“The gift is designed to last forever and there are a list of curses or protective formulas so if anyone should dispute that the gift was made or if they try and hide it, bury it in the dirt, try to destroy it with fire, smash it or get somebody who does not know any better to do it on their behalf, then the gods will curse them in a variety of really horrible ways. So, it is to protect forever this gift in recognition of this act of bravery,” said Taylor.

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14th c. gold coin found in secret drawer

March 19th, 2019

Today in every-history-nerd’s-childhood-fantasy-come-true news, a rare 14th century gold coin was found in the secret compartment of a modest George II-style modern bureau. Amy Clapp inherited a bureau from her great cousin last Christmas. She doesn’t remember ever having met him and she certainly knew nothing about his furnishings. It’s a 20th century piece, solidly made, attractive but nothing of great value. It has two wide drawers and two half-width ones in the front, and a bunch of small ones when the desk is open. She looked through all the drawers and cubbies before calling Hansons Auctioneers to have it appraised for sale.

Furniture expert Edward Rycroft examined the piece to assess its value. He estimated it was worth about £80 ($106). Then he looked a little deeper and found three secret drawers. One of them held secret treasure.

He said: “I know bureaus like this often have tiny, secret drawers – sometimes called coin drawers – so I always check them just in case.But in 10 years of valuing furniture I have never found anything in them – until now.”

Much to his amazement, he discovered a 22ct gold coin hidden in a secret drawer. It turned out to be rare, more than 650 years old and highly valuable.

The Raymond IV Prince of Orange Franc A Pied coin dates back to 1365. Its guide price is £1,200-£1,800 but the experts at Hansons think it could sell for as much as £3,000. According to their coin valuer Don Collins, it’s very unusual. In more than half a century of coin valuing he has never seen one exactly like it.

Amy Clapp was thrilled by the unexpected windfall as her family has been through some hard times lately. Her daughter has a genetic condition, Bardet-Biedl syndrome, which has severely affected her sight. Mrs. Clapp works for the charitable organization Bardet-Biedl Syndrome UK and plans to donate some of the proceeds to the charity. Here’s hoping it sells way above estimate when it goes up for auction next month.

The bureau goes under the hammer tomorrow. I’d buy it in a heartbeat for twice the price. God I love secret compartments.

This video shows where the secret drawer was found in the desk.

Did I run to my modern Georgian repro secretary with a similar drawer layout as soon as I saw this video to pull the drawers all the way out in breathless hope of revealing a hidden compartment? Yes. Yes I did. Was there one? No. No there was not. Someday…

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Da Gama astrolable certified as world’s oldest

March 18th, 2019

The copper alloy disc discovered in a shipwreck off the coast of Oman in 2014 has been independently verified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the world’s earliest known marine astrolabe. The disc was found in the debris field of the Esmeralda, one of the ships in the fleet Vasco da Gama took on his second voyage to India that sank in 1503. It had a hole in the middle and two raised decorations (a Portuguese royal coat of arms and the esfera armilar, King Manuel I’s personal emblem), but no unambiguous evidence of its function could be seen with the naked eye. In 2016, laser scans by Professor Mark Williams at WMG, University of Warwick, found lines etched along the edge of the upper right quadrant exactly five degrees apart, markers used by sailors to calculate their latitude. Those findings have now been confirmed by the Guinness Book researchers.

The exact date of the astrolabe’s manufacture could not be determined, but it had to have been made after 1495 when Manuel became King of Portugal and before 1502 when the ship departed Lisbon. Before this discovery, the oldest known astrolabe was found on a Portuguese shipwreck that sank off the coast of Namibia in 1533. The Esmeralda‘s bell dating to 1498 has also been confirmed as the oldest known ship’s bell, beating the previous record-holder the venerable Mary Rose, the Tudor flagship that sank in the Solent in 1545.

Oceanographer David Mearns of Blue Water Recoveries who led the diving team that discovered the wreck, University of Warwick researchers Mark Williams and Jason Warnett have published their findings on the astrolabe in the International Journal of Nautical Archaeology. It’s a great paper for layperson and scholar alike. It lays out the archaeological record of marine astrolabes, how rare they are overall and how almost none of them were excavated archaeologically which makes determining their provenance and background extremely challenging. Only ten were known in 1957 when the first astrolabe register was created by David Waters, curator of navigation and astronomy at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. As of publication, there are 105 astrolabes and four alidades (sights used on astrolabes) on the current list, which you can see a cool (but alas too small) picture of on page two of the paper. The Sodré astrolabe (named after Vicente Sodré who commanded the Esmeralda) is number 108.

It also explains the whole story of how and why the Sodré brothers and their ships wound up in pieces off the coast of an Oman island and covers the excavation in which more than 2,800 objects were recovered, an incredible wealth of archaeological material that lends invaluable insight into Portuguese navigation in the Age of Discovery.

The paper goes into the astrolabe’s discovery and the results of years of study, but it also explains its significance in the larger context of the invention and earliest use of astrolabes.

What can be made of the observation that the Sodré astrolabe was only marked at 5-degree intervals and not with the 1-degree gradations seen in all other mariner’s astrolabes? Is it possible that at the time it was created the Portuguese, or at least the maker of this particular specimen, had not refined or standardized the design of their instruments to allow measuring altitude to the precision of 1-degree? Cline (1990: 130) claims that prior to the development of the heavy, open-wheel types, the early navigators were unable to take measurements within four to five degrees even on a ship that was not rolling. This might explain the absence of individual degree marks in the Sodré astrolabe if 5-degree divisions were deemed to be adequate by the navigators, presuming they could always estimate the position of the alidade between scale marks. Considering the general corroded state of the undecorated side and perimeter of the Sodré astrolabe, it is equally possible, however, that the individual gradations have been eroded away and that the faint traces of the 5-degree gradations were preserved because of their position further from the perimeter or possibly because the maker had scored them to a greater depth. […]

The astrolabe is unique in the archaeological record in a number of ways. It is the only known solid disc (type 0) mariner’s astrolabe with a verifiable provenance and age. This suggests it might be a transitional instrument in the development of mariner’s astrolabes.[…]

The Sodré astrolabe is also unique in that, of the 104-known instruments, it is the sole specimen decorated with a national symbol: the royal coat of arms of Portugal. Together with Manuel’s esfera armilar, these decorations dominate one side of the Sodré astrolabe. Their conspicuous placement, in relief, ensures that they stand out and would appear to mark the astrolabe as an object of the state. This is significant in light of Manuel’s use of royal symbolism to project his power at the precise time Portuguese ships were discovering new lands and his country was on the cusp of building the world’s first global empire.

Seriously, this is a page-turner, one of the most interesting, content-rich and comprehensible research papers I’ve read in a long time.

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Irish have been burying butter in bogs for 3500 years

March 17th, 2019

A new study has revealed that the practice of burying butter in bogs goes back even further in Irish history than we knew.

Previous analyses found that bog butters are made from animal fat, but because being buried in peat for a few thousand years can have mineralizing effects on organic matter. Some early studies concluded that it was adipocere, ie, tissue fat converted into a waxy substance in anaerobic condition, because the saturated fats in its chemical composition more closely matches those in adipocere (see this massive 77-lb stick). than in butter fat. Both theories got support in 2004 when a stable carbon isotope analysis of nine bog butters proved that six of them were the product of ruminant dairy and three from tallow, the carcass fat of ruminants.

The 2004 study looked at Scottish bog butter. The most recent study had a wider sample pool — 32 butters, and they are all Irish. The researchers also radiocarbon dated all of them to see if similar processes produced Irish and Scottish bog butters and if they could spot any trends over time. Of the 32 samples, the chemical composition of 26 of them identified them as ruminant dairy fat and another three were found to be likely from a dairy source. The remaining three samples could not be precisely classified.

The radiocarbon dating results had a nice surprise. A sample of bog butter from Knockdrin was found to date from between 1745 and 1635 B.C.

“We have known for a long time that bog butter was some sort of animal fat. However, compound-specific stable isotope analysis of the fatty acids in the degraded bog butters is the only way to identify the true origins of the fat – whether it was a milk fat like butter, or a carcass fat like tallow or lard.” said Professor Richard Evershed from the University of Bristol.

“Combining this analysis with radiocarbon dating, we obtain unparalleled insight into an extremely long-lived activity,” said UCD’s Dr Smyth.

“Together with two recently dated samples, this study brings to five the number of Bronze Age bog butters recorded from Ireland. Their date is extremely significant and pushes back known depositional activity by as much as 1500 years.”

Dr Smyth added: “Clearly, it is unlikely there was a single reason for the deposition of bog butter over four millennia. In certain periods they may have been votive deposits, while at other points in time it may have been more about storage and even protection of valuable resources.”

Professor Evershed notes that: “The widespread occurrence of these enigmatic butter deposits fits with our increasing knowledge of the central importance of dairying in prehistoric northern Europe.”

The study has been published in the journal Scientific Reports.

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