The samples revealed the dietary practices of the miners for millennia.  (Cell Press)

Human love for cheese and beer has a long history. Workers at a salt mine in Austria were already producing blue cheese and beer in a sophisticated way about 2,700 years ago, according to a study published Wednesday.

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The scientists made the finding by analyzing samples of human excrement found in the heart of the Hallstatt mine in the Austrian Alps. The study was published Wednesday in the journal Current Biology.

Frank Maixner, a microbiologist at the Eurac Research Institute in Bolzano, Italy and lead author of the report, said he was surprised to learn that salt miners of more than two millennia ago were advanced enough to “Use fermentation intentionally.”

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“This is very sophisticated, in my opinion.” Maixner told AFP. “It is something that I did not expect at that time.”

The finding is the first evidence to date of cheese maturation in Europe, according to the researchers.

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The samples revealed the dietary practices of the miners for millennia. (Cell Press)

And although alcohol consumption is certainly well documented in ancient writings and archaeological evidence, the feces of the salt miners contained the first molecular evidence of it. beer consumption on the mainland at that time.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that not only were prehistoric culinary practices sophisticated, but that complex processed foods, as well as the technique of fermentation, have had a prominent role in our primitive food historya”, said Kerstin Kowarik of the Vienna Natural History Museum.

The Unesco World Heritage-listed city of Hallstatt has been producing salt for more than 3,000 years, according to Maixner.

Community “It is a very particular place, it is located in the Alps, In the middle of nowhere”he added. “The whole community worked and lived from this mine ”.

The miners spent there all day, working, eating and going to the bathroom right there, in the mine.

Thanks to the constant temperature of around 8C (46F) and the mine’s high concentration of salt, the miners’ faeces were particularly well preserved.

The researchers analyzed four samples: one dating from the Bronze Age, two from the Iron Age, and one from the 18th century.

One of them, about 2,700 years old, contained two fungi, Penicillium roqueforti and Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Both are known today for their use in food processing.

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