3,000 yr old butter discovered in Ireland

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Dublin, August 20 (ANI): Two workers have discovered an oak barrel, full of butter, estimated to be roughly 3,000 years old, in Gilltown bog, between Timahoe and Staplestown, in Ireland.

According to a report in Leinster Leader, the amazing discovery of the barrel, which is being described by archaeology experts in the National Museum as a "really fine example" was found by two Bord na Mona workers.

The pair, John Fitzharris and Martin Lane, were harrowing the bog one day in late May when they noticed a distinctive white streak in the peat.

"We got down to have a look. We knelt down and felt something hard and started to dig it out with out bare hands," John explained. "We could smell it. And it was attracting crows," he added.

What they found was an oak barrel, cut out of a trunk, full of butter.

It was largely intact, except for a gash towards the bottom of it caused by the harrow. It was head down, and had a lid; something that has excited the archaeologists.

The barrel is also split along the middle, which is common with utensils filled with butter found in the bogs.

A conservator at the National Museum, Carol Smith, told the Leinster Leader that the butter expands over time, causing the split.

The barrel is about three feet long and almost a foot wide, and weighs almost 35 kgs.

The butter has changed to white and is now adipocere, which is essentially animal fat, the same sort of substance that is found on well-preserved bodies of people or animals found in the bog.

The two men put the barrel in the cab of their tractor and brought it back to their base.

"We put it in a black plastic bag," Fitzharris explained.

"It's rare to find a barrel as intact as that, especially with the lid intact, and attached. It's a really fine example," said Padraig Clancy, one of the keepers of the National Museum of Ireland.

He estimates that the barrel is approximately 3,000 years old, from the Iron Age.

At the moment, it is being dried out by staff at the Conservation Department. Once dry, it will be soaked in a wax-like solution that preserves it.

It is thought that the butter was put in the bog for practical reasons, rather than ritual.

According to Clancy, such a large amount of butter would have probably been the harvest of a community rather than an individual farmer. (ANI)

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