A team of researchers led by Eurac Research and the Natural History Museum Vienna gains unique insights into the history of cheese production and complex dietary habits of prehistoric Europeans by studying human paleofeces from the Hallstatt salt mine.
We perceive highly processed fermented foods such as beer or cheese primarily as a hallmark of modern times. However historical texts do confirm that milk was fermented in ancient Egypt and, the world's oldest evidence for the actual consumption of blue cheese has now been revealed by a team of researchers. The evidence in question comes from Hallstatt salt mine in Austria in the form of exceptionally well-preserved fecal remains from the Bronze Age to the Baroque period which demonstrate the presence of two fungal species used in the production of blue cheese and beer. The combination of archaeological and molecular analysis has proven particularly fruitful, providing surprising insights both into prehistoric dietary habits and food production. The study results will be published today, October 13, in the renowned journal Current Biology.