Look closer next time you're treading through an Irish bog—you might find something both ancient and edible. An Irishman did just that earlier this month in Emlagh peat bog in County Meath, Ireland, when he discovered a 22-pound ball of butter that may be 2,000 years old, the Smithsonian reports. Jack Conway was pulling up blocks of moss when he uncovered the sample of so-called Bog Butter, or cow's-milk butter that's buried in a bog. Remarkably, the bog's high-acid, low-oxygen, cool conditions have preserved the ancient spread so well that it's still, well, butter. "It did smell like butter, after I had held it in my hands, my hands really did smell of butter," an Irish museum curator tells UTV Ireland of the find. "There was even a smell of butter in the room it was in."
"Theoretically the stuff is still edible—but we wouldn’t say it's advisable," says a curator at the National Museum, where the butter is set to be carbon-dated, the Irish Times reports. More remarkable is the fact that bog butter isn't that rare: A 1997 paper in the Journal of Irish Archaeology considered over 274 bog-butter cases dating back to the Iron Age, and figured Celtic peoples likely buried it as food for harder times ahead, protection from thieves, or a way to pay their taxes one day (butter was a pricey commodity). Another theory holds that the butter was buried as an offering to spirits or gods. As for eating it, Irish celebrity chef Kevin Thornton did so with 4,000-year-old bog butter back in 2014. "There’s fermentation but it’s not fermentation because it’s gone way beyond that," he said in a blog. "Then you get this taste coming down or right up through your nose." (Read more butter stories.)