Bog Butter, Ancient Beef, and Other Remarkably Old Foods on Display in Museums - Atlas Obscura Lists
THE GASTRO OBSCURA BOOK An eye-opening journey through the history, culture, and places of the culinary world. Just released! The Gastro Obscura book is here! Order Now

Bog Butter, Ancient Beef, and Other Remarkably Old Foods on Display in Museums

Some of these foods are centuries past their expiration dates.

The National Museum of Ireland is famous for its collection of millennia-old human remains remarkably preserved by peat bogs. While these “bog bodies” get all the glory, another incredible bog-preserved specimen sits behind glass just a few feet away: a giant, 2,300-year-old block of butter. 

Ireland’s bog butter is just one example of ancient food on display at museums. Often no longer resembling their original form, the humble, hardened artifacts can be easy to miss. But if you know where to look, you can find everything from ancient Egyptian beef to the world’s oldest bottle of wine. For archaeologists, these slices of history offer a glimpse into the lives of the people who made them: The beef and wine, for example, were discovered within ancient burial sites, underscoring the link between food and the afterlife in Roman and Egyptian funerary rites. But other food artifacts—like a 119-year-old ham that a man once leashed and carried around as his “pet”—prompt more questions than answers.

Perhaps most remarkable of all: Many of these preserved artifacts are still edible. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to try them, but you can still admire them at the places below.