Archaeologists Find a 3,000 Year Old Burned Dinner

Archaeologists Find a 3,000 Year Old Burned Dinner
Science & Medicine

We may have more in common with our ancestors than we think. Archaeologists in Denmark have recently uncovered a 3,000-year-old cooking skillet with burned cheese encrusted at the bottom of it. Whoever committed this kitchen nightmare didn’t think his or her lack of cooking talent would be preserved for the ages. [1]

It appears the failed cook in question was an attempting to fry up some kind of brown cheese. After burning their dinner, this ancient Norseman tossed the baby out with the bath water and the ruined pan ended up in a trash heap. And while it isn’t uncommon to find flour and grains in ancient pots, finding the entire remains of someone’s dinner doesn’t happen nearly as often. [2]

The cooking utensil itself is made of clay, and researchers remark that it in itself is a rare find. This is partially because most of these pots from this specific time period didn’t survive the ages intact, making this one special not just for its burned cheese contents.

An analysis of the content of the skillet suggests what exactly it was the person was attempting to make all those millennia ago. Archaeologist Kaj Russman, who helped find the pot, said:

“The fat could be a part of the last traces of curds used during the original production of traditional hard cheese. The whey is boiled down, and it contains a lot of sugars, which in this way can be preserved and stored for the winter.

It is the same method used to make brown, Norwegian whey cheese, where you boil down the whey, and what’s left is a caramel-like mass that is turned into the brown cheese that we know today from the supermarket chiller cabinet.” [3]


Historians and archaeologists point out that throwing away the pan was a pretty drastic move back in those days. For most people, pots and pans weren’t easily procurable, and instead most people had to spend a lot of time making them themselves. So this person likely not only had to start from square one revamping his cheese, but also had to make themselves a whole new pan from scratch. Talk about a kitchen blunder.


[1] NPR

[2] The Daily Mail

[3] Smithsonian

Featured image credit: Museum Silkeborg