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Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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New Dates for Ireland’s "Bog Butters"

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Ireland bog butterDUBLIN, IRELAND—The Journal reports that a new study of Ireland’s "bog butter" has been conducted by Richard Evershed of the University of Bristol, Jessica Smyth of University College Dublin, and their colleagues. They dated 32 bog butters held at the National Museum of Ireland, and analyzed samples of the fats to determine whether they were actually milk fats or fats from animal carcasses. The results of the tests indicate that the waxy substances are indeed degraded butter, and push back the origin of the practice of storing butter in bogs by some 1,500 years. In fact, five of the samples date to the Bronze Age. The oldest sample, which dates to around 1700 B.C., is thought to have been wrapped in bark. Smyth said the dairy products may have simply been stored in the cool, low-oxygen, high-acid environment of bogs in order to preserve them for future consumption, or they may have been offerings, just as gold, axes, and other bladed weapons were deposited in bogs during the Bronze Age. For more, go to “Oldest Bog Body.”

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