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.
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.
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.