Ancient poo study reveals 2,700-year-old diet of beer and blue cheese

Researchers learning of exceptionally well-preserved feces found in Iron Age salt mines have discovered the presence of fungi used in the fermentation of meals. The results indicate that miners feasted on blue cheese and beer 2,700 years ago.

The study, published in the journal Current Biology, investigates a number of samples of paleofeces found on a World Heritage website in Austria, often known as the Hallstatt Salt Mines. The distinctive environmental situation of the mines – fixed, delicate temperatures with excessive salt concentrations – is perfect for preserving traditional poo, allowing researchers to gain useful information about the diet and gut microbiome of people of age. iron.

“Molecular and microscopic investigations revealed that the miner’s diet consisted mainly of cereals, such as domesticated wheats (starch and spelled), barley, common millets and foxtail millets,” the researchers write in the framework of the study. “This high carbohydrate diet was supplemented with protein from beans and sometimes with fruits, nuts or animal products.”
Because the Hallstatt salt mines have been constantly occupied for over two millennia, researchers have the opportunity to study gut microbiome adjustments in human populations over long periods of time. Here, researchers found exceptional consistency in the diet of miners until the 18th century.

An archaeologist standing in the center of layers of mining particles collected with paleofeces
D. Brander and H. Reschreiter – NHMW

Perhaps one of the most notable variations between the diet of the Iron Age miners and their 18th-century counterparts is the form in which grains and pulses were consumed. Researchers suggest that the older diet of miners was to consume these grains in the form of porridge or oatmeal, whereas not so long ago miners consumed processed grains in the form of breads and cookies.

The most shocking discovery during the study was the invention of DNA from particular fungi in paleofeces samples. DNA from Penicillium roqueforti and Saccharomyces cerevisiae has been detected, indicating consumption of fermented meals and drinks.

Penicillium roqueforti is particularly used in the manufacture of blue cheese and the study considers this to be the first evidence of this type of cheese making in Europe. Saccharomyces cerevisiae is a yeast used to ferment alcohol and, in addition to the presence of a number of grains, researchers speculate that it was used here to make beer.

“Genome-wide analysis indicates that both fungi were involved in the fermentation of food and provide the first molecular evidence for blue cheese and beer consumption during the Iron Age in Europe,” said Frank Maixner, creator of the brand new study. “The Hallstatt miners appear to have intentionally applied food fermentation technologies with microorganisms that are still used in the food industry today. ”

The study provides to our understandings of historic meals manufacturing, suggesting dietary practices 1000’s of years in the past have been rather more mature than beforehand assumed. The new analysis additionally demonstrates more and more subtle paleofeces microbiome evaluation strategies permitting for detailed insights into the intestine microbes of our historic ancestors.

“These results shed substantial new light on the life of the prehistoric salt miners in Hallstatt and allow an understanding of ancient culinary practices in general on a whole new level,” notes Kerstin Kowarik, one other creator on the brand new study from the Museum of Natural History Vienna. “It is becoming increasingly clear that not only were prehistoric culinary practices sophisticated, but also that complex processed foodstuffs as well as the technique of fermentation have held a prominent role in our early food history.”

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