Aw crap

Look: Ancient poop reveals 2 very popular modern foods

Some snacks are worth preserving.

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Eurac Research/Frank Maixner

It’s not often that fossilized human poop survives for thousands of years.

But when it does, stale turds can offer fresh insights into the diets of ancient people.

Such is the case with a handful of ancient feces uncovered from an Austrian salt mine.

The archaeologists who dug them up described their findings in an October 13 report in the journal Current Biology.

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Large-scale underground mining near the Austrian village of Hallstatt, where the mountains are rich with salt, dates back to the Late Bronze Age.

These “paleofeces” represent individuals living during the European Iron Age. Tools, construction elements, and yes, human excrements have all been found in the Hallstatt salt mines (seen above).

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The team found prehistoric people living up to 2,700 years ago consumed a lot of cereals from domesticated wheat and grains, and got their protein mostly from beans.

They also ate fruits, vegetables, and occasionally animal products.


Though their relatively unprocessed diets are a stark contrast from more modern ones in the global West, they do have two surprising foods in common with us today:

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Beer and blue cheese.

One fecal sample contained two species of bacteria known to be present in these delicacies.


These are both fermented foods, meaning these prehistoric miners had relatively advanced knowledge of agriculture and culinary practices.

It’s far from the oldest example of humans utilizing the fermentation process. Previous research shows that we’ve been brewing alcohol for up to 13,000 years.

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And cheese and milk became part of the human diet when animals were domesticated in Mesopotamia roughly 6,000 years ago.

Eurac Research/Frank Maixner

But these poop samples represent a new type of hard evidence of human consumption of fermented foods in Iron Age Europe.

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The researchers say that their genome analyses of the feces reveal the first molecular evidence for fermentation in this part of the ancient world.


“It is becoming increasingly clear that not only were prehistoric culinary practices sophisticated, but also that complex processed foodstuffs, as well as the technique of fermentation, have held a prominent role in our early food history.”

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