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Karen Boggs: The Man in the Iron Age Mine drank beer and ate cheese

Karen Boggs: The Man in the Iron Age Mine drank beer and ate cheese

In Hallstatt in the Austrian Alps, people have mined salt industrially at least since the Bronze Age 3,400 years ago. The salty environment and the equally low temperature of eight degrees in the mine mean that the organic matter has been exceptionally well preserved.

There are, for example, wooden tools, animal skins, ropes, and textiles that reveal a lot about how salt mining took place. There is an old stool from the workers who did the work.

research group Led by the Vienna Museum of Natural History, he has now, by a series of scientific methods, examined four samples of stool (four sausages, to express themselves in plain text). Among other things, the researchers used the latest technology to analyze DNA and proteins. They publish their results in this week’s issue of the journal current biology.

The oldest of the four sausages is from the Bronze Age and is about 3,200 years old. Two are from the early Iron Age and about 2,700 years old, and one is from the 1700s. DNA analyzes show that all sausages are made by men.

Fecal fossils from the Hallstatt salt mines analyzed in the study.

Photo: Eurac Research/Frank Maixner

They all seem to have eaten food consisting largely of grains: different kinds of wheat, barley, and millet. Bronze and Iron Age men are fortified with protein from broad beans and also some beef and pork. The man from the eighteenth century also ate some meat and beans that looked like green beans.

The three oldest specimens show that the grains were largely unprocessed – men probably ate the grains in the form of porridge or porridge cooked on whole grains. On the other hand, the man of the eighteenth century was eating softer grains, perhaps in the form of bread.

The researchers also found evidence of poppy seeds, cranberries, blueberries, apples (wild or cultivated) and walnuts.

What really stands out In the study, one Iron Age man lived about 2,600 years ago. DNA analyzes of his stool show that he drank large amounts of fermented alcohol and ate large amounts of moldy cheese.

The researchers put a lot of effort into analyzing the yeast strains that were used to make the drink and cheese.

Their conclusion is that the fermented beverage should be beer. They can’t say for sure what kind of beer it was, but based on the type of yeast yeast yeast They are of the opinion that it was likely a type of beer called pale ale, produced by a method called upper fermentation.

The cheese should be a type of blue cheese. Not exactly Roquefort cheese, but a similar kind. The template in question is called Penicillium Roqueforte.

The discovery of the salt mine It is the world’s first DNA evidence that humans made and ate cheese, although there is evidence from the Early Peasant Stone Age that humans milked cows, sheep and goats and processed milk into various dairy products. Archaeologists have found, for example, earthenware pots with remnants of milk fat and special ceramic sieves that may have been used to filter whey in cheesemaking. The Oldest published guide The milk-fat ceramic is currently about 8,600 years old and comes from present-day Turkey.

Another striking finding in the study was the gut flora of all four men. It reminds us of the intestinal flora of people who live far from today’s industrial society, such as hunters, gatherers and farmers who have very traditional lifestyles.

Thus a similar type of intestinal flora occurred in salt mines for several thousand years. But sometime after the eighteenth century, drastic changes occurred. It is unclear whether our modern intestinal flora can be explained by antibiotics or foods that are more difficult to process, more fatty and high in protein. Our lifestyle is very different from that of salt miners. But we at least have beer and the common mold cheese.

Read more texts by Karen Boggs

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