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A 2,000-Year-Old Lump Of Butter Was Found In Ireland — And It’s Theoretically Still Edible

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An enormous 2,000-year-old lump of butter was discovered in a bog by an Irish farmer earlier this month.

Jack Conway, from Maghera, Ireland stumbled across an immense 22-pound ball of ancient butter in a bog, a soft, wet and muddy terrain. According to The Irish Times, the “bog butter” was buried five meters deep in Ireland’s northern Cavan County. Andy Halpin, head of the national museum’s antiquities department, told the paper:

“Theoretically the stuff is still edible—but we wouldn’t say it’s advisable.”

Experts say the 2,000-year-old butter is theoretically edible, though consumption of the ingestible artifact is not advisable. Conditions of the bog, such as cool temperatures, low oxygen levels and high acidity, naturally preserved the butter.

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Conway, who discovered the butter on June 9, first reported his finding to the Cavan County Museum. The lump of butter was then transported to the National Museum of Ireland to be carbon dated and preserved. Savina Donohoe, curator of the Cavan County Museum, wrote in an email:

“A find like this is extremely significant in terms of our history and heritage. It does smell like butter. And although I did not taste it there was a strong smell from my hands after touching and holding it.”

Donohoe speculates that since the butter was not enclosed in a protective case, it is possible that it was buried as a religious offering. Back in the day, dairy was a luxury food item that could only be afforded by the wealthy. According to the food research nonprofit Nordic Food Lab, dairy was also used as payment in taxes and rent. A bog would have been a safe place for storage.

Kevin Thornton, a culinary chef, admits to have tasted bog butter before, however archaeological experts are put off by its strong and distinctive smell of cheese and crumbly texture.

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Finding ancient lumps of butter isn’t that odd in countries like Ireland and Scotland. To date, there have been approximately 400 similar discoveries. In 2013, turf cutters in Ireland’s Offaly county unearthed over 100-pounds of 5,000-year-old bog butter inside a keg.

Written by Laura Dang for NextShark || H/T Quartz

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Hit-Or-Miss

World’s Oldest Tea Discovered In 2,100-Year-Old Tombs

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Archaeologists discovered 2,100-year-old plant remains in ancient Chinese tombs that they believed to be tea. A new analysis reported by NPR confirms their suspicions, making this the world’s oldest evidence of the beverage. Proving how important tea has been in Chinese culture even this far back in time, one of the samples was found in the tomb of Jing Emperor Liu Qi, who died in 141 B.C.

That’s no surprise, because one of the tombs, the Han Yangling Mausoleum in Xi’an in western China, was built for the Jing Emperor Liu Qi, who died in 141 B.C. The other tomb is the slightly younger Gurgyam Cemetery (maybe A.D. 200) in Ngari district, western Tibet. In both, archeologists found remains of millets, rice and a kind of spinach. They also found tiny leaf buds that bore an uncanny resemblance to the finest tea. Tea does not grow in the area of the tombs, so the evidence shows not only that it was present and valued enough to be buried with important people, but also that it was being imported to Xi’an at least 141 years B.C., and westwards into Tibet by the second century.

While it can’t be determined whether the tea was used for brewing a beverage, James Benn, professor of Buddhism and East Asian religions at McMaster University in Canada and author of the recent book Tea in China: A Religious and Cultural History, stated that the tea was certainly consumed “in some form,” possibly for medicinal purposes.

Head over to NPR to read more about this ancient tea.

Feature image via FCartegnie.

Written by Ryan Kristobak, HistoryBuff

Categories
Hit-Or-Miss

This History Museum is Brewing Beer Found in a 3300-Year-Old Coffin

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Beer is old and fermenting anyway, so what’s another 3,000 years? Ask the folks at The Danish National Museum, who partnered with Denmark’s Skands Brewery to create Egtved Girl’s Brew, a beer reconstructed from samples found in a 3,300 year old coffin.

The Egtved Girl was a 16 – 18 year old girl from the Nordic Bronze Age (1390 – 1370 BC), found fossilized in wooden barrow back in 1921. Though only traces of her body remained, scientists scraped together the residue  from her coffin of what looks like an ancient brewski, the kind of which Egtved might have drunk wayyy back when. You know, whenever she wanted to get Thor-hammered.

Wheat malt, honey, bog myrtle, and cranberries form the basis of the beer, which the museum and Skands adapted to “contemporary taste buds.” The result is a summery, wheat-y brew, available at the museum shop and online for ~$4 – 7. Our recommendation? Buy enough to fill a barrel, climb in, and wait 3,000 years for someone to find it and make a new beer out of you.