2000-Year-Old Bog Butter Could Still Be Edible
Peckish? You might be eyeing up a piece of candy found behind the sofa, wondering what its “best before” date is, whether you could still eat it without catching the lurgy.
Alternatively, if you head to the National Museum of Ireland, you could get a lick of a 2,000-year-old block of bog butter which some experts think could still be edible.
Now that is a way to make any meal more interesting and if your having a bruch or dinner party it makes for a great conversation piece.
How has it been preserved for so long? The bog simply acted as a larder due to its high levels of acid, and low temperature and oxygen.
Weighing in at a considerable 10kg, the lump is made from cow’s milk and was likely preserved in a bog either for later use or as a religious offering. If it were being saved as food, this was a luxury item that could be sold on to pay taxes; if it were a donation to deities or spirits, however, the butter was never meant to be dug up.
It was actually dug up, roughly 2,000 years after it was buried, by Jack Conway who chanced upon it while working at the Emlagh Bog, Drakerath, near his hometown of Maghera, and promptly contacted Cavan County Museum. The butter was 12 feet below the surface, and as little effort seems to have gone into hiding it, the original owners likely meant to recover it at a later stage.
The find is of particular interest as in medieval Ireland, the Drakerath area was a cross-section of 11 towns, where the boundaries of three baronies met. Describing the area as a political “no man’s land,” Andy Halpin, of the National Museum’s Irish Antiquities Division, added: “These bogs in those times were inaccessible, mysterious places… Theoretically the stuff is still edible but we wouldn’t say it’s advisable.”
Spoilsport. With a waxy but crumbling texture, the bog butter is thought to taste similar to very strong cheese, and its apparent distinct stench attest to that!
The find has now been donated to the National Museum of Ireland for further research and analysis, including carbon dating.
Philip Bates is Editor of The Doctor Who Companion and you can read his posts at that site by clicking here.