October 5, 2022

Ancient Poop Shows People in Austria Drank Beer and Ate Blue Cheese 2,700 Years Ago

This image reveals paleofeces samples from Hallstatt salt mines evaluated in this study. Credit: Eurac Research/Frank Maixner
Exceptions to this general rule are discovered in a couple of places in the world, consisting of prehistoric salt mines of the Austrian UNESCO World Heritage area Hallstatt-Dachstein/Salzkammergut. Now, researchers whove studied ancient fecal samples (or paleofeces) from these mines have actually uncovered some surprising evidence: the presence of 2 fungal types used in the production of blue cheese and beer.
” Genome-wide analysis indicates that both fungi were associated with food fermentation and provide the first molecular proof for blue cheese and beer consumption during Iron Age Europe,” says Frank Maixner of the Eurac Research Institute for Mummy Studies in Bolzano, Italy.
” These results shed substantial brand-new light on the life of the ancient salt miners in Hallstatt and enable an understanding of ancient culinary practices in basic on an entire brand-new level,” adds Kerstin Kowarik of the Museum of Natural History Vienna. “It is becoming increasingly clear that not only were prehistoric cooking practices sophisticated, but also that complex processed foods items in addition to the method of fermentation have held a popular role in our early food history.”

Exceptions to this basic rule are found in a couple of places in the world, consisting of prehistoric salt mines of the Austrian UNESCO World Heritage location Hallstatt-Dachstein/Salzkammergut. Now, scientists whove studied ancient fecal samples (or paleofeces) from these mines have discovered some unexpected proof: the presence of two fungal species utilized in the production of blue cheese and beer. These thorough studies allowed them to rebuild the diet plan of the individuals who once lived there. Gut microorganisms are jointly known as the gut microbiome and are now recognized to have a crucial function in human health.

This image shows 2600 year old human excrement from the Hallstatt salt mines in which beans, millet and barley are plainly noticeable. Credit: Anwora/NHMW
Earlier studies already had actually revealed the potential for studies of prehistoric paleofeces from salt mines to offer essential insights into early human diet plan and health. In the new research study, Maixner, Kowarik, and their coworkers included in-depth microscopic, metagenomic, and proteomic analyses– to explore the microbes, DNA, and proteins that were present in those poop samples.
These comprehensive studies permitted them to reconstruct the diet of individuals who once lived there. They also could get information about the ancient microbes that occupied their guts. Gut microorganisms are jointly understood as the gut microbiome and are now acknowledged to have an important role in human health.
Their dietary study identified bran and glumes of various cereals as one of the most common plant fragments. They report that this extremely fibrous, carbohydrate-rich diet plan was supplemented with proteins from broad beans and sometimes with fruits, nuts, or animal food items.
In keeping with their plant-heavy diet, the ancient miners as much as the Baroque period likewise had gut microbiome structures more like those of contemporary non-Westernized people, whose diets are also generally composed of unprocessed food, fresh fruits, and veggies. The findings suggest a more current shift in the Western gut microbiome as eating habits and lifestyles changed.
When the researchers extended their microbial survey to include fungis, thats when they got their greatest surprise: an abundance in one of their Iron Age samples of Penicillium roqueforti and Saccharomyces cerevisiae DNA.
” The Hallstatt miners appear to have purposefully used food fermentation technologies with microorganisms which are still nowadays used in the food industry,” Maixner says.
The findings offer the first evidence that people were currently producing blue cheese in Iron Age Europe almost 2,700 years back, he includes. In future and continuous research studies of the paleofeces from Hallstatt, they wish to find out more about the early production of fermented foods and the interplay between nutrition and the gut microbiome composition in different period.
Reference: “Hallstatt miners consumed blue cheese and beer during the Iron Age and retained a non-Westernized gut microbiome till the Baroque duration” by Frank Maixner, Mohamed S. Sarhan, Kun D. Huang, Adrian Tett, Alexander Schoenafinger, Stefania Zingale, Aitor Blanco-Míguez, Paolo Manghi, Jan Cemper-Kiesslich, Wilfried Rosendahl, Ulrike Kusebauch, Seamus R. Morrone, Michael R. Hoopmann, Omar Rota-Stabelli, Thomas Rattei, Robert L. Moritz, Klaus Oeggl, Nicola Segata, Albert Zink, Hans Reschreiter and Kerstin Kowarik, 13 October 2021, Current Biology.DOI: 10.1016/ j.cub.2021.09.031.
This work was supported by Programma Ricerca Budget prestazioni Eurac 2017 of the Province of Bolzano, Italy, and the South Tyrolean grant legge 14, the European Regional Development Fund, the European Research Council grant, the US National Institutes of Health, and the United States National Science Foundation.

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