A LARGE quantity of ancient “bog butter” has been discovered by two men cutting turf near Tullamore in Co Offaly.
“Bog butter” refers to an ancient waxy substance – sometimes dairy- and sometimes meat-based – found buried in peat bogs. Researchers have suggested that bog butter was formed by food products buried in an attempt at an archaic form of refrigeration, as the peat creates a hygienic seal around the buried material.
Brian Clancy and his uncle Joe unearthed the find while working at Ballard bog on Tuesday. “We were cutting turf at Ballard and I found what looked like a huge piece of timber,” explained Joe Clancy.
“We took it out with a spade and it turned out to be bog butter,” Joe said. “It looked like a keg or an urn with two handles and a lid carved from a solid piece of wood.”
The butter was found in a wooden vessel. The container and butter have a combined weight of 47kg (104lb).
Carving marks are visible around the edges of the vessel, which appears to have a removable lid and handles with holes, possibly for carrying. The butter, which still has a dairy odour, was buried at a depth of 2.3m (7ft).
Bog butter is one of the more common archaeological finds on Irish bogs, with finds dating back hundreds and possibly thousands of years. However, to find such a large quantity is unusual.
Recognising the importance of their discovery, Joe returned to his house and researched bog butter on the internet. He then returned to the bog and “filled a wheelbarrow with the peat and put the keg into it and brought it home and contacted the National Museum of Ireland”.
Mr Clancy said Andy Halpin and Nessa O’Connor from the museum were coming to inspect the find today.
Mr Clancy admitted he has not been tempted to sample the butter. “I think it would be a bit too old for my taste.”