And you thought your office fridge had some pretty ancient leftovers.
Two employees of an Irish utilities company recently discovered a 3,000-year-old container of butter buried underground.
John Fitzharris and Martin Lane of Bord na Mona stumbled upon the remarkably well-preserved oak barrel and its buttery contents while digging through a peat bog between Timahoe and Staplestown, Ireland. “We got down to have a look. We knelt down and felt something hard and started to dig it out with our bare hands,” says Fitzharris. “We could smell it. And it was attracting crows.”
The butter itself is in surprisingly good shape, although since its initial Iron Age burial, it has transformed into adipocere, a waxy organic substance also commonly found on well-preserved human and animal corpses.
Burying food in peat bogs was a common practice in ancient Ireland. The cold temperatures of the ground, combined with an acid- and oxygen-free environment created by sphagnum moss, served to refrigerate perishables while guarding them against bacterial growth.
The butter is currently being held at the National Museum of Ireland’s conservation department, where it is being dried out. It will eventually be dipped in a special solution to preserve it.
Perhaps the question on everyone’s mind is, Does it still taste good?
We may never know. Says one museum expert, "It's a national treasure. You can't be going hacking bits of it off for your toast.”
To view a photo of the Iron Age butter barrel, click here.