This 1600 years old butter was found preserved in a bog in Western Norway (Photo: Terje Tvedt / forskning.no)
The butter, which is on display in a glass cabinet at the Museum of Archaeology in Stavanger was found in 1917 and dated to the early Iron Age – or more exact the migration period; 430-560 AD. It was found in a birch butter mold in a bog in Stavanger, Western Norway. It is preserved, and one can still see that it is butter.
It is very unusual to find food and other organic matter that is so well preserved. It is the bog’s content of tannins and lack of oxygen that allows food and other objects to be conserved. Tannins and moss is slightly antiseptic.
In Denmark, there are found over 1,000 well-preserved bodies in bogs – so-called “bog bodies”.
It is not often archaeologists find food, and when they do it is usually charred grain or crop residues.
There are several theories about why the butter has ended up in the bog. It can be an offering where different containers of food and drink were buried as a sacrifice to the Norse gods.
Or maybe the bogs were used as refrigerator through the hot summer months?
Producing butter has a very long tradition in Norway, but exactly what it was used for 1,600 years ago archaeologists cannot tell. They assume that the butter was used in porridge, to fry with – they used iron pots – and bread.
It takes 16 to 20 liters (4.2 – 5.3 gallons) of milk to produce cream that yields 1 kilo (2.2 lbs) – meaning that butter was an extremely valuable commodity.
- See also: Norway’s Oldest Shoe – 1400 BC
Text by: Thor Lanesskog, ThorNews