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Stonehenge Artifacts Shed Light On Ancient Diet of Builders, Researchers Say

Oct 13, 2015 03:35 PM EDT
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Sacrifice and food-related rituals have long been practiced by many cultures, and the remains of such activity allow researchers a peek into the past, helping them to better understand our ancestors. Recently, such studies have helped reveal more about the builders of Stonehenge – specifically about their diet.

After taking a closer look at pottery and animal bones collected from the Late Neolithic monument as Durrington Walls that was built during the 25th century BC known near where Stonehenge sits, archaeologists from the University of York and the University of Sheffield recently discovered an unexpected pattern in how foods were distributed and shared across the worker settlement, according to a news releaseThese artifacts also suggest that humans participated in organized feasts featuring barbeque-style roasting. 

Using the fragments of pottery collected from the sites, researchers preformed a chemical analysis of remaining food residue and discovered that pots found in residential areas were used for cooking animal products that included pork, beef and dairy. In contrast, pottery collected from ceremonial spaces was used for dairy. This suggests that dairy products such as milk, yogurts and cheeses were selectively consumed, probably during special events that were less frequent.

When analyzing the bones excavated from the site, researchers concluded that pigs were of popular demand during this time. The bones revealed clues that signified the pigs were killed before reaching their maximum weight. This led researchers to believe that the people living in these areas had planned autumn and winter slaughters for feast-like consumption. There were also distinctive burn patterns on the animal bones, which indicated the meat was most likely either roasted in pots in indoor hearths or barbeque-style outdoors.  

"Evidence of food-sharing and activity-zoning at Durrington Walls shows a greater degree of culinary organization than was expected for this period of British prehistory," Dr. Oliver Craig, lead author of the study from the University of York, said in a statement. "The inhabitants and many visitors to this site possessed a shared understanding of how foods should be prepared, consumed and disposed. This, together with evidence of feasting, suggests Durrington Walls was a well-organized working community."

This study paints a clearer picture of the large-scale feasting habits and rituals of people who built Stonehenge many years ago. The findings were recently published in the journal Antiquity

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