Yes, 2000 Year Old Butter Is Still Edible
If you're worried about that tub of butter you've had sitting in your fridge for a couple weeks, this should really put things into perspective. A turf cutter named Jack Conway working in a bog in Ireland recently found a 10-kilogram hunk of bog butter that's still technically edible. What's bog butter? It's a form of buried, preserved butter with a stronger, more cheese-like odor.
While today this butter has been given to the National Museum of Ireland, originally it was likely offered as a gift to the gods. So basically, we're seriously messing with ancients' intentions by digging it up again and putting it on display. How do we know it wasn't supposed to be eaten? People would encase the bog butter in animal skins or firkins for its safekeeping, but this lump was pretty much just 10kg of bog butter hanging free underground.
It's a pretty great find as far as Irish history goes. While the spot Conway found it on is today know as the Emlagh bog in County Meath, 2,000 years ago it was the Drakerath area, the meeting point of eleven towns. Andy Halpin, an employee of the National Museum's Irish Antiquities Division, explains the historical significance of this find: "These bogs in those times were inaccessible, mysterious places. It is at the juncture of three separate kingdoms, and politically it was like a no-man’s-land — that is where it all hangs together."
When Conway discovered this butter, he immediately called up the Cavan County Museum. Their curator Savina Donohoe paints the scene for us: "It did smell like butter, after I had held it in my hands, my hands really did smell of butter. There was even a smell of butter in the room it was in." So I guess go ahead, put some ancient history on your toast.