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Beer and blue: analysis of 2,700-year-old dung reveals menu of distant ancestors

2021-10-14T12:21:10.848Z

A study published Wednesday provides the first "molecular" evidence of consumption of these products during the Iron Age in Europe.



Halstatt is a small village nestled in the heart of Austria. Less than a thousand inhabitants a year, but one attraction that attracts tourists: the oldest salt mine in the world. 7000 years ago, humans began to extract the most famous condiment there, before supplying part of Europe with "white gold". And the miners, what did they eat? The answer can be found in their feces. A study published Wednesday in the journal Current Biology states that 2,700 years ago, on their breaks, tireless workers ate in particular blue cheese, in other words blue, washed down with beer.

To reach these conclusions, the team led by microbiologist Frank Maixner and archaeologist Kerstin Kowarik studied fecal samples from these mines.

Very old excrement but yet incredibly preserved thanks to the high salt concentration of the place and a constant temperature of 8 ° C.

A balanced diet

In the Iron Age sample, they were surprised to find DNA from two fungi,

Penicillium roqueforti

and

Saccharomyces cerevisiae,

used in the fermentation of cheese and drinks such as beer, respectively. In other words, humans of the time had already "domesticated" strains of fungi and mastered the sophisticated fermentation processes. Techniques still used today in the food industry!

Thanks to their analyzes, the researchers determined that it was indeed beer and blue resulting from an intentional fermentation and not natural deposits. They provide the first "molecular" evidence of the consumption of these products during the Iron Age in Europe, although alcohol consumption is documented in older writings.

Scientists have studied the diet of these ancestors more generally.

It was mainly made up of grains, such as wheat, spelled or barley.

They also ate fruit and, for a good protein intake, beans and meat.

A balanced diet, very suitable for tireless workers.

Researchers are now working on new analyzes to verify whether or not the consumption of beer and cheese was concentrated in certain periods.

Source: leparis

All tech articles on 2021-10-14

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