A group of turf cutters a peat bog in Ireland have uncovered what seems to be a lump of butter dating back to ancient times. Found nearly 12 feet below the ground in the Irish town of Drakerath, around 50 miles (approx. 80 km) from Dublin, the 22-pound material has a pungent cheese smell and is surprisingly still edible. Speaking about the discovery, a spokesperson at the Cavan County Museum said:
Bogs are excellent preservative properties – low temperature, low oxygen and highly acidic environment.
Believed to be over 2,000 years old, the lump of butter was likely planted in its unusual location as a gift to the gods, and not for the purpose of preservation. The ancient dairy product, which has been sent to the National Museum of Ireland for carbon dating and analysis, might have been part of a ritual burial, since it was put in the peat bog without being covered. Andy Halpin of the museum added:
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.
Although novel in its own way, the discovery is not unusual, according to the researchers. In the past, several hundred packages of butter, including some kept inside wooden boxes, have been unearthed from Irish bogs. As the experts explain, Sphagnum moss, also known as peat moss, buries anything present in the bog, thus aiding in its preservation. This, together with the bog’s unique chemical properties, helps prevent decomposition. While the 2,000-year-old butter is technically still safe to eat, Halpin is quick to point out:
But we wouldn’t advice tasting it.