Stonehenge Builders Threw Organized Barbecue Parties

By Carl Engelking | October 14, 2015 4:27 pm

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If you enjoy tailgating before a sporting event, you’d fit right in at the barbecues Stonehenge builders were hosting in their neighborhood thousands of years ago.

A new analysis of animal bones and pottery found at Durrington Walls, a Late Neolithic monument and settlement thought to be the place where builders of nearby Stonehenge lived, revealed residents enjoyed large-scale barbecues and ceremonial feasts. The menu options at the time, researchers say, indicate culinary organization in Britain during the 25th century B.C. was more advanced than previously thought.

Eating Well

Today, Durrington Walls is a C-shaped, man-made earthen berm built some 4,500 years ago, about 2 miles northeast of Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England. In its heyday, it is believed that Durrington Walls housed one of the largest Neolithic settlements in Europe. Researchers at the universities of York and Sheffield chemically analyzed bones and food remains clinging to several hundred pottery fragments discovered at Durrington Wall’s residential and ceremonial areas.

After analyzing the lipid residue, the researchers determined that the site’s ancient residents feasted mostly on pork, beef and dairy. Surprisingly, there was little to suggest that vegetarian options were provided. Rather, evidence points to mass consumption of meat, particularly pigs.

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Sheep graze on the western bank of Durrington Walls, as seen from Woodhenge. (Credit: Psychostevouk/Wikimedia Commons)

The feasts also appeared to be highly organized. Specific types of pots were used to prepare each type of food. Dairy, for example, was found only in shards unearthed in the ceremonial areas of Durrington Walls, suggesting that milk and cheese played a role in public rituals.

Further analysis of pig bones indicated the animals were killed before reaching maturity, providing strong evidence that they were slaughtered and cooked as part of an autumn or winter feast that brought the community together to dine. Isotopic evidence from cow bones suggests the animals were escorted to Durrington Walls from numerous locations, further suggesting a highly organized culinary operation.

The team published its findings in the journal Antiquity.

Eating Together

Bringing in animals from afar, slaughtering them and cooking them for large-scale feasts takes some organizational skills — more than what’s traditionally attributed to Late Neolithic cultures. The feasts and ceremonies may have helped build a sense of community among the isolated farming communities that lived in the area at that time in history.

“This new research has given us a fantastic insight into the organization of large-scale feasting among the people who built Stonehenge. Animals were brought from all over Britain to be barbecued and cooked in open-air mass gatherings and also to be eaten in more privately organized meals within the many houses at Durrington Walls,” says University College London’s Mike Pearson, who led the excavations at Durrington Walls.

Today, we still marvel at the level of planning and engineering it took to build Stonehenge. It’s not surprising that the folks who built it could also put together a top-notch barbecue.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
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  • http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm Uncle Al

    The social justice blog holder censors dissent to maintain ideological purity.

    Barbecue? Carbon footprint! They doomed the Earth to Greenhouse Effect/Global Warming/Klimate Kaos. The Maunder Minimum, Little Ice Age…1950s’ cooling and contingent global famines were “pauses.”

    “little to suggest…vegetarian options” Brussels sprouts for everybody! Yeah, that will inspire heavy labour, re Michelle Obama’s inedible school lunches seasoned with Progressivism.

  • OWilson

    So the archaeologists were surprised at the large scale feeding arrangements for the folks who quarried and transported 50 ton monoliths hundreds of miles to build a mammoth complex.

    They were also surprised that there were no “vegetarian options” at the “barbeque” ?

    Oh, what this Kardashian IPhone generation has wrought!

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