Let’s talk about old foods. No, not that pizza crust you found under the couch or the petrified french fry in the back seat of your car – we’re talking really old foods. Even older than what people ate in Colonial America. These foods date back thousands of years, making them actual archaeological discoveries, and most of them sound pretty disgusting.
Archaeologists find food all the time, whether it’s hiding in ancient tombs, resting on the bottom of the sea in a sunken ship, or tied around the neck of a mummy. These ancient food discoveries range from the palatable – preserved honey found in Egyptian pyramids – to the completely revolting – 5,000-year-old butter pulled out of a bog – to the culturally significant – 4,000-year-old preserved noodles discovered at Lajia site, AKA China’s Pompeii.
Come on a journey through the oldest foods archaeologists have discovered, and contemplate facing these choices at a sadistic buffet. What would be the absolutely worst food to eat today?
2,400-Year-Old Bone Soup That Turned Green
Some of the best archaeological food discoveries come from tombs, where people were buried with provisions for the afterlife. Archaeologists working in China found a surprising food haul in one tomb, where they uncovered a bronze cooking pot. When they opened the pot, they found 2,400-year-old bone soup. Because of oxidization, today, the soup is green, but it’s still a liquid, and the bones are still floating on top. No thank you.
Bog Butter Is Exactly What It Sounds Like – Butter Hauled Out Of A Bog
What are you supposed to do if you accidentally make 77 pounds of butter, and you don’t have time to eat it all? One Irish butter farmer from 3,000 years ago buried his cache in a bog – and then forgot about it. The oldest example of bog butter dates back 5,000 years, and nearly 300 different instances of bog butter have been dragged from the peat.
Why did people toss their butter into a bog? Butter was a valuable commodity, and people even used it to pay taxes. Bog butter is the ancient equivalent of hiding your money in your mattress. Ireland considers bog butter to be a national treasure, so no one’s getting a taste any time soon. Thank goodness.
Ancient Chinese Mummy Cheese
Two words should never be combined: mummies and cheese. But these mummies were preserved with cheese snacks for the afterlife. A group of archaeologists uncovered 200 mummies buried in China’s Taklamakan Desert. The mummies are nearly 4,000 years old, and they are still wearing the clothes in which they were buried in upside down boats.
The mummies were also carrying a treat into the afterlife: chunks of cheese tied around their necks. The dry and salty soil of the desert preserved the mummies and their ancient cheese for thousands of years.
At Least The 2,000-Year-Old Pickled Fish Might Have Omega-3s?
Around 2,000 years ago, a ship sunk in the Mediterranean on its way sailing from Italy to Spain. The hull was filled with sealed glass jars containing foods like grain, olive oil, and pickled fish. Archaeologists believe the foods were going to be traded in Spain for other goods.
Pickled fish doesn’t sound very appetizing even when it’s fresh, and it probably doesn’t age well.
This Nearly 1,700-Year-Old Bottle Of Roman Tomb Wine Might Not Kill You
The oldest unopened bottle of wine is almost 1,700 years old. It comes from a Roman tomb near Speyer, Germany. The bottle was discovered during the excavation of a Roman nobleman’s tomb that dates between 325 and 359 CE. Today, the Roman tomb wine is in the Historical Museum of the Palatinate in Speyer.
How did the wine bottle survive the fall of Rome, the rise of the Holy Roman Empire, and several major wars without breaking? A combination of olive oil poured in the bottle and a thick wax seal preserved the contents. As for the tomb wine’s taste, wine professor Monika Christmann warns, “it would not bring joy to the palate.”
The 5,500-Year-Old Burnt Bread That Looks Exactly Like a Hunk Of Coal
The very first farmers in Britain were making bread 5,500 years ago. And they were also burning it. Archaeologists found the bread, made from barley, in a pit near Oxford. The bread was either tossed into a garbage pit – which makes sense, because it was burned black – or intended as a religious offering. The hunk of bread looked so much like the hunk of coal pictured here that scientists originally mistook the find for charcoal. But once they put the bread under the microscope, they could see ancient grains of barley.
Today, the bread probably tastes exactly like biting into a nugget of charcoal. Maybe a slather of bog butter would improve the flavor.
Cook Noodles, Add 10 Feet Of Dirt And 4,000 Years
Noodles are one of the best food inventions of all time. But no one should line up to eat 4,000-year-old noodles. Archaeologists found the bowl of noodles in China, where the long yellow noodles were preserved inside an overturned bowl buried under 10 feet of dirt. The noodles were likely preserved after an ancient earthquake flooded the Yellow River. The flood interrupted one person’s meal, preserving the noodles in a vacuum between the sediment and the bowl.
While the noodles probably don’t taste great after 4,000 years covered in dirt, they are a clue that China should get credit for inventing noodles, rather than Italy.
Beef Jerky That Has Been Sitting In A Tomb For 2,000 Years, Yum
Archaeologists found a mysterious black substance in an ancient tomb in Shaanxi Province, China, that dates back at least 2,200 years. After months of testing, they determined that they’d discovered the world’s oldest beef jerky. The beef jerky was sealed in a bronze pot to feed the tomb’s inhabitants on their journey to the afterlife. Today, the beef has mostly carbonized, which definitely wouldn’t improve the flavor.
2,400-Year-Old Greek Salad Dressing To Liven Up Your Greens
In 2006, a team of scientists sent a robot into an ancient Greek shipwreck to collect jars from the bottom of the sea. After DNA testing, the scientists determined that the jars contained olive oil infused with oregano – essentially, 2,400-year-old salad dressing. The antioxidant properties of the oregano helped preserve the food that dates back to the days of Aristotle and Socrates.
But if you want to see how well the salad dressing has aged, you’ll have to do some scraping – after more than two millennia under water, the container is not in great shape.
This Ancient Popcorn Is Almost 7,000 Years Old
In 2012, archaeologists produced a study that proved that Peruvians were making popcorn as early as 6,700 years ago. Ancient Peruvians likely made popcorn by wrapping a cob and resting it on coals until the kernels popped, roasting the corn directly over flame, or cooking the cob in an oven.
Honey From An Ancient Egyptian Tomb
The oldest sample of honey from the Egyptian pyramids is approximately 3,000 years old. And scientists say the honey is still edible because of its natural “preservatives.” Honey has a low water content; it is acidic; and it contains a small amount of hydrogen peroxide that is a byproduct of bees’ stomachs.
In addition to eating it, ancient Egyptians used honey as an ingredient in their embalming fluid, which kind of kills the appetite.