A large chunk of butter was discovered in Ireland. Researchers have confirmed it could be at least 2,000 years old. Interestingly, despite its extensive age, it could still be edible.
A 2,000-year-old glob of butter weighing a whopping 22-pounds was recently uncovered in Co. Meath, Ireland, by a worker. Experts who are still trying to understand the origins and purpose of the butter speculate it is at least a couple of millennia old. Astonishingly, despite the mind-boggling amount of time it has lain buried, the chunk of butter is also “theoretically… still edible,” claims Andy Halpin, one of the Irish National Museums’ assistant keepers, reported CNet. However, the museum officials who have custody of the butter stress that it is certainly not advisable to eat it.
The discovery of the chunk of butter is being attributed to Jack Conway, who works as a turf cutter. Turf or peat is a type of moss that grows over a soft muddy area, and is often used to provide warmth during the cold winter months. While chopping the moss at the bog, Conway came across the 22-pound round chunk of butter, reported the Irish Times.
The butter that was found is commonly referred to as bog butter due to the fact that it is created and instantly buried. The butter is usually churned from cow’s milk. The fact that despite being butter, it survived for so many years is no surprise owing to the conditions found in the bog. Due to severe lack of oxygen and a cold climate, the butter did not go bad despite being in the earth for about 2,000 years.
Additionally, peat is highly acidic, which aids in preservation. It has been used for preserving organic matter for thousands of years. In fact, many mummified corpses have been found in remarkable condition.
Incidentally, the butter is believed to be completely devoid of salt, which is one of the most common preservatives known to man. Technically, the bog butter now has the consistency of cheese, and has a similarly strong aroma as well as “crumbly” texture, reported Gizmodo.
Interestingly, finding heaps of ancient butter isn’t uncommon. There have been multiple instances where workers have come across storage bins stuffed with butter and then forgotten. In 2009, peasants found a 3,000-year-old, three-foot-wide barrel stuffed with 77 pounds of bog butter, reported Smithsonian. However, the oldest of the bog butter was discovered in 2013, where peat cutters discovered a wooden keg containing 100 pounds of the butter. Researchers estimated the butter could be at least 5,000 years old.
Why would a large chunk of butter be buried in a bog? Preserving butter is quite common. However, the region where this butter was discovered indicates it could have served a more religious purpose. According to the Daily Mail, the butter was unearthed in the Drakerath area, where the boundaries of three ancient baronies met. These bogs were considered quite sacred and off-limits by locals, pointed out Halpin.
“These bogs in those times were inaccessible, mysterious places. It is at the juncture of three separate kingdoms, and politically it was like a no-man’s-land — that is where it all hangs together.”
Though it is conjecture at this moment, the butter may have been buried as a offering to the gods. Since butter is one of the essential household items and is considered valuable, it was used in a lot of ceremonies in the early times. However, considering the circumstances, researchers strongly feel the butter was buried merely for preservation, reported the Washington Post.
[Photo by Cavan County Museum]