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I Can’t Believe It’s 3,500-Year-Old Bog Butter

March 18, 2019 in History

By Becky Little

An example of bog butter recovered from Irish contexts. Pictured here is dated to 360-200 BC and found deposited in a keg.

People in Ireland stored their butter in bogs for at least 3,500 years, leaving behind well-preserved waxy globs , in a university press release. “In certain periods they may have been votive deposits, while at other points in time it may have been more about storage and even protection of valuable resources.”

A bog butter sample dated to AD 775-895 in a wooden container.

Smyth’s study notes that “early medieval Irish law tracts list butter as one of the products payable as food rents.” If you left your rent butter out too long, you might unintentionally liquidate your assets, so it would make sense to deposit it in a bog.

“Foods are an often-ignored category but may have also been infused with symbolism,” Smyth said. “In this regard, it may be no coincidence that both butter and gold are commonly deposited in bogs.”

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