Turf cutter Jack Conway came upon a 22-pound piece of butter while chopping turf at a bog in County Meath, Ireland, earlier this month. The bog butter, made from cow’s milk and buried in a bog, is estimated by researchers to be more than 2,000 years old, reports The Charlotte Observer.
Turns out bog butter is not an uncommon find. In 2009 a 3,000-year-old, three-foot-wide barrel stuffed with 77 pounds of bog butter was found. In 2013 turf cutters found a 5,000-year-old keg containing 100 pounds of butter.
Evidence supports the idea that burying butter in bogs was a method of preservation, as bogs “are essentially cold-water swamps” and peat helps to keep food fresh as it “is both cool and contains little oxygen while remaining highly acidic.”
In her article “Bog Butter: A Two Thousand Year History” in The Journal of Irish Archaeology, Caroline Earwood writes, “It is usually found as a whitish, solid mass of fatty material with a distinctive, pungent and slightly offensive smell. It is found either as a lump, or in containers which are most often made of wood but include baskets and skins.”
If that’s not enough to turn you off to bog butter, Andy Halpin, assistant keeper in the Cavan Museum’s Irish Antiquities Division, says, “Theoretically the stuff is still edible, but we wouldn’t say it’s advisable.”
Check out our story on ancient food discoveries.