We’re not surprised that researchers discovered that Iron Age miners were drinking beer 2,700 years ago. But Blue cheese? Who knew they had such a refined palette?
Here’s the deal…
Scientists in Austria have uncovered some interesting findings about the drinking and eating habits of Iron Age Europeans. And according to a recent study published in Current Biology, that research involved digging into paleofeces (that’s right, ancient poop).
Austrian researchers subjected human paleofeces “dating from the Bronze Age to the Baroque period (18th century AD) to in-depth microscopic analyses. The paleofeces were preserved in the underground salt mines of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Hallstatt in Austria.
This allowed the research team to reconstruct the diet of the former population (Bronze Age miners who spent much of their lives underground) and gain insights into their ancient gut microbe composition.
Further analysis of the human DNA in the paleofeces revealed that the ancient salt miners would punctuate long days underground eating blue cheese and drinking beer. (Yes!)
As Vinepair reports, “these are some of the first indications of that blue cheese production in Iron Age Europe.” And few things pair better with beer than cheese.
“These results shed substantial new light on the life of the prehistoric salt miners in Hallstatt and allow an understanding of ancient culinary practices in general on a whole new level,” Kerstin Kowarik of the Museum of Natural History Vienna told PhysOrg….
“It is becoming increasingly clear that not only were prehistoric culinary practices sophisticated, but also that complex processed foodstuffs as well as the technique of fermentation have held a prominent role in our early food history.”
“Genome-wide analysis indicates the first molecular evidence for blue cheese and beer consumption during Iron Age Europe,” Frank Maixner of the Eurac Research Institute for Mummy Studies in Bolzano, Italy, told PhysOrg. “The Hallstatt miners seem to have intentionally applied fermentation technologies with microorganisms which are still nowadays used in the food industry.”