Archaeologists Discover Pot With 3000-Year-Old Burnt Cheese

Museum Silkeborg
Museum Silkeborg / Museum Silkeborg

If you’re a disaster in the kitchen, you can comfort yourself with the knowledge that people have been burning dinners and ruining pans for thousands of years. ScienceNordic reports that archaeologists in Denmark recently discovered a rare Bronze Age pot with what appears to be a layer of 3000-year-old burnt cheese crusted onto the bottom—possibly the result of an ancient cooking accident.

Archaeologists noticed that the pot, which was excavated in central Jutland, appeared to have a layer of white-yellow residue coating its bottom, so they sent it to the Danish National Museum for analysis. Researchers there ruled out meat and plant matter as possible sources of the residue, concluding that it was a “foamy, vitrified material” that looked a lot like cow fat. While researchers still aren’t completely sure what the substance is, they think it’s likely the result of cheesemaking gone awry.

“The fat could be a part of the last traces of curds used during the original production of traditional hard cheese," archaeologist Kaj F. Rasmussen told ScienceNordic. "The whey is boiled down, and it contains a lot of sugars, which in this way can be preserved and stored for the winter."

Rasmussen observed that the pot, with its charred remains, tells a bit of a story, though we'll never know the details for sure. He speculated to ScienceNordic that it may have been quickly discarded by an embarrassed chef thousands of years ago. “I cannot help but wonder if someone had a guilty conscience. It’s well and truly burnt and must have smelt terrible,” he said.

[h/t ScienceNordic]

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