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The People Who Built Stonehenge Loved BBQ

New evidence that Neolithic settlers roasted pork and beef

Mysterious Neolithic masterpiece...or world's most complicated BBQ joint? (Phil Norton/Loop Images/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

The Neolithic settlers who built Stonehenge must have worked up quite an appetite. They had to drag stones that weighed as much as 50 metric tons, on sledges, for dozens of miles across land. After they built one of the most enduring monuments in human history, then, what did they eat? New research about the diet of Stonehenge's builders reveals new insights about their love of barbecued meats, Archaeological News Network reports.

The findings come from an analysis of Durrington Walls, a settlement site where Stonehenge's builders may have lived. By analyzing fat residue found inside pottery shards and on animal bones, a team of archaeologists from the University of York and the University of Sheffield discovered "evidence of organized feasts featuring barbecue-style roasting," ANN reports.

The scraps that remain from those Neolithic meals contain intriguing clues about the era's culture and diet. Researchers discovered "distinctive burn patterns" on the bones — a sign that they roasted pork and beef — as well as signs of dairy foods that may have been used for ceremonial purposes. They also found bones from many parts of the pig and cow skeletons, which suggests whole animals were shepherded to the area. "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," University College London professor Mike Parker Pearson tells ANN.

While there's no word on how the food was prepared — pit oven, anyone? — these new findings lend credence to the theory that Stonehenge was a feast site. Sounds perfect for a barbecue, doesn't it?

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