It’s no secret that beer and blue cheese hand in go hand in hand in hand – only one new study reveals how deep their roots run in Europe, where workers in a salt mine in Austria were full eating on both up up to 2700 years ago.
scientists made the discovery by analyzing monsters of human excrement found in the heart of the Hallstatt mine in the Austrian Alps.
Frank Maixner, a microbiologist at the Eurac Research Institute in Bolzano, Italy, who was it lead author of the report, said he was surprised to learn salt mines more than two millennia ago were advanced enough touse deliberately ferment.”
“This is very advanced in my opinion,” Maixner said. “I did not expect this at the time.”
The finding was the earliest evidence to date of ripening cheese in Europe, researchers said.
And while alcohol use is certainly well documented in older writings and archaeological evidence, the excrement from the salt mines contain the first molecular evidence of beer consumption on the continent at that time.
“It is becoming more and more clear that not only were prehistoric culinary practices refined, but also that complex processed foods and the technique of fermentation have a prominent role in our early dinner history”, Kerstin Kowarik, of the museum of Natural History Vienna, said.
The city of Hallstatt, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been used for salt production for more than 3000 years.
The community “is a very special one place, it is located in Alpine, in the middle of nowhere,” Maixner said. “The whole community worked and lived off this mine.”
The miners spent their whole days there, working, eating and going to the toilet in the mine.
It is thanks to the constant temperature of around 8C (46F) and the high concentration of salt in the mine that the excrement of the miners is particularly well preserved.
Researchers analyzed four monsters: one to date back to the Bronze Age, two from the Iron Age and one from the 18th century.
An of them, about 2700 years old, was found to contain two fungi, Penicillium roqueforti and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Both are known today for their use in making food.
Hallstatt miners appear to have deliberately applied food fermentation technologies with micro organisms die are still used today in the food industry,” Maixner said.
The researchers also studied the miner’s diet, which consisted mainly of of grains, some fruits and beans and meat as a source of egg white.
“The diet was exactly what these miners needed, in my opinion,” Maixner said. “It’s clearly balanced and you have all the key components die you have” need.”
The main difference with today’s menus is the degree of food processing, die in die time was very low. The Bronze and Iron Age miners used whole grains, indicating consumption of a kind of of dad. For the 18th-century miners, the grains appeared to be ground, indicating that they were bread of ate cookies.
An of the other findings of the study were the composition of the miners’ microbiota, of the set of bacteria present in their bodies.
In the four investigated monsters the microbiota looked very much like that of modern non-western populations, die over generally a more traditional lifestyle.
This suggests a “recent shift” in the microbiota of industrialized people, “probably because of the modern lifestyle, diet of medical advances,” the study said.
However, microbiota are often linked to several modern diseases, Maixner said. According to him, it can determine when exactly this change took place: help scientists understand what caused the.
The study has been published in the news Current Biology on Wednesday.
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