I can’t believe it’s 3000-year-old butter

The miracle preservative that is the Irish peat bog has struck again, this time surrendering a 3000-year-old oak barrel filled with 3000-year-old butter. It was found by workers at a peat company who were “harrowing” the bog.

(I think getting to harrow anything is a cool job description. The only other context I ever hear it in is in the story of the Harrowing of Hell.)

This isn’t the first time a butter barrel has been found, but they’re not usually so complete and nowhere near so large.

The barrel is about three feet long and almost a foot wide, and weighs almost 35kgs, (77lbs).

The butter has changed to white and is now adipocere, which is essentially animal fat, the same sort of substance that is found on well-preserved bodies of people or animals found in the bog. [...]

“It’s rare to find a barrel as intact as that,” Mr. Clancy explained, “especially with the lid intact, and attached. It’s a really fine example.”

He estimates that the barrel is approximately 3,000 years old, from the Iron Age.

It might have been intentionally placed in the bog to preserve it. Such a huge amount would likely have been the product of multiple people, perhaps even the entire community.

The bog butter is drying out right now. Once it’s dry, it will be coated in a wax preservative and kept at the National Museum of Ireland.

Incidentally, people have tasted ancient bog butter and lived to tell the tale. :ohnoes:

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15 Comments »

Comment by Steve St. Clair
2009-08-20 01:08:59

Hi all,

Being in the advertising business, that headline cracks me up.

I’m writing your blog with news of what I hope you’ll find to be an interesting conference – The Atlantic Conference 2009.

It concerns the evidence of trans-Atlantic contact well before Columbus. As no true believer myself, I’m demanding the highest standards from those who will present. I ran the first Atlantic Conference in Halifax in 2008 and the research presented there was of a very high caliber.

The website is – http://www.AtlanticConference.org
There you can read about the speakers, see the technology that will drive the conference at work, and get a sense of the personality of some of the speakers.

The amount of evidence in all areas is simply overwhelming.

I hope your groups finds it interesting.

Kind Regards,

Steve St. Clair

 
Comment by Dina
2009-08-20 05:27:31

Great story.
Would YOU taste that butter, for the sake of history-reporting? :no:

Comment by livius drusus
2009-08-20 07:58:36

That’s a definite nay. It looks like a stick of mummy. :skull:

 
 
Comment by Hans
2009-08-20 09:42:30

When you consider that the Irish consider boiled Bacon a relative delicacy it’s not a far stretch from tasting adipocere butter. I’d probably taste it just to be able to say I ate 3000 year old butter. A Guiness would make it go down.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-08-20 10:17:18

Good God. I’m not a huge fan of bacon but even I appreciate its crispiness. Boiling it is just unspeakable. The horror… The horror…

Yeah, I think I’d take a chunk of bog butter with a Guiness chaser over boiled bacon.

 
 
Comment by Hans
2009-08-20 11:20:40

I know I’d enjoy sharing that with you Livius. You’re an even bigger history geek than I.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-08-20 11:24:26

Okay but the Guiness is on you. I’ll bring the Dramamine. :boogie:

 
 
Comment by Kathryn Hadley
2009-08-21 11:23:07

Fascinating story! I didn’t even know that butter was made in Ireland or anywhere in the world 3,000 years ago!

Comment by livius drusus
2009-08-21 11:32:11

I hadn’t really thought about it, but it makes sense there would be butter produced fairly quickly after cattle domestication, and that would have been 5,000 years or so before this chunk found its way into the bog.

 
 
Comment by LadyShea
2009-08-21 11:46:16

I would think that maybe butter was easier to store and preserve than fresh milk.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-08-21 11:48:19

Most definitely. Cheese even more so.

Comment by LadyShea
2009-08-21 12:59:15

Hmm. I am now wondering if cheese, butter and yogurt were all discovered accidentally, during experiments in preservation.

Comment by livius drusus
2009-08-25 23:30:35

That’s plausible. I often wonder how foods of all kinds were discovered. Even fresh foods that don’t require chemical experimentation must have a ton of unfortunate trial and error behind them. Mushrooms, for example.

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Comment by Mr Lemming
2009-08-28 15:26:20

Seriously Livius; Best. Title. Ever. :lol:

Comment by livius drusus
2009-08-28 15:43:54

Yay thank you! The best part is that I genuinely found it hard to believe that cylinder of black stuff was butter. :giggle:

 
 
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