Bog Butter

What would you do with 20-pounds of butter? Unless you’re heading to a butter festival, I don’t know that it would be of much use. But what if the butter was 2,000-years-old and had been found in an Irish bog?

When farmer Jack Conway was working on Emlagh bog in Co Meath, Ireland, he found something no one ever expects. The bog butter was initially brought to the attention of the Cavan County Museum. As a designated museum, Cavan had to contact the National Museum in Dublin.

Bog Butter

Via Cavan County Museum

This particular chunk was found 5 meters (16 feet) below the surface, and no attempt had been made to cover it up. It was not in a wooden container or keg. This leaves experts thinking it wasn’t meant to be found and used later.

Research suggests that this butter was intended as an offering to the gods.

In the past this was a common ritual as butter was seen as a luxury and a sign of wealth – it was often used to pay rents and taxes. -Savina Donohoe, Curator at Cavan County Museum

The butter is currently being researched and analyzed by the National Museum in Dublin, but when that process is complete, there’s hope that it will make its way back to Cavan and be put on display.

Irish Bogs

Bog Butter

Flowering Heather by Aqwis via Wikimedia

A bog may not be the first place you think of when going to store your butter, but bogs have excellent preservative properties. They’re naturally low in oxygen, have a high acidic quality, and maintain low temperatures. 

The Irish bogs are essentially man-made. As people settled in Ireland, they started cutting down vegetation. But this led to the soil losing nutrients in the rain, and the ground became more acidic.

Because of the nutrient leaching, heather and rush became the only thing capable of growing in these areas. But the debris from the plants didn’t decompose. Peat began to build up, and the trees were choked off. As a result, the cycle would begin again, and the bogs would be formed.

Walls and evidence of the initial farms that started the process have been found buried in the Irish bogs. And now 2,000-year-old bog butter can be added to the list of secrets hidden in the depths of the Irish countryside.