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Archaeologists have unearthed evidence of the earliest large-scale celebrations in Britain – with people and animals traveling hundreds of miles for prehistoric feasting rituals. The study, led by Dr. Richard Madgwick of Cardiff University, is the most comprehensive to date and examined the bones of 131 pigs, the prime feasting animals, from four Late Neolithic complexes. Serving the world-famous monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury, the four sites hosted the very first pan-British events.

Source: Prehistoric Britons rack up food miles for feasts near Stonehenge

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A team of archaeologists at the University of York have revealed new insights into cuisine choices and eating habits at Durrington Walls – a Late Neolithic monument and settlement site thought to be the residence for the builders of nearby Stonehenge during the 25th century BC.

A team of archaeologists at the University of York have revealed new insights into cuisine choices and eating habits at Durrington Walls – a Late Neolithic monument and settlement site thought to be the residence for the builders of nearby Stonehenge during the 25th century BC.

Original Article:

heritagedaily.com

 

A team of archaeologists at the University of York have revealed new insights into cuisine choices and eating habits at Durrington Walls – a Late Neolithic monument and settlement site thought to be the residence for the builders of nearby Stonehenge during the 25th century BC.

Together with researchers at the University of Sheffield, detailed analysis of pottery and animal bones has uncovered evidence of organised feasts featuring barbeque-style roasting, and an unexpected pattern in how foods were distributed and shared across the site.

Chemically analysing food residues remaining on several hundred fragments of pottery, the York team found differences in the way pots were used. Pots deposited in residential areas were found to be used for cooking animal products including pork, beef and dairy, whereas pottery from the ceremonial spaces was used predominantly for dairy.

Such spatial patterning could mean that milk, yoghurts and cheeses were perceived as fairly exclusive foods only consumed by a select few, or that milk products – today often regarded as a symbol of purity – were used in public ceremonies.

Unusually, there was very little evidence of plant food preparation at any part of the site. The main evidence points to mass animal consumption, particularly of pigs. Further analysis of animal bones, conducted at the University of Sheffield, found that many pigs were killed before reaching their maximum weight. This is strong evidence of planned autumn and winter slaughtering and feasting-like consumption.

The main methods of cooking meat are thought to be boiling and roasting in pots probably around indoor hearths, and larger barbeque-style roasting outdoors – the latter evidenced by distinctive burn patterns on animal bones.

Bones from all parts of the animal skeleton were found, indicating that livestock was walked to the site rather than introduced as joints of meat. Isotopic analysis indicates that cattle originated from many different locations, some far away from the site. This is significant as it would require orchestration of a large number of volunteers likely drawn from far and wide. The observed patterns of feasting do not fit with a slave-based society where labour was forced and coerced, as some have suggested.

Dr Oliver Craig, Reader in Archaeological Science at the University of York and lead author on the paper, said: “Evidence of food-sharing and activity-zoning at Durrington Walls shows a greater degree of culinary organisation than was expected for this period of British prehistory. 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-organised working community.”

Professor Mike Parker Pearson, Professor at University College London and Director of the Feeding Stonehenge project who also led the excavations at Durrington Walls, said: “This new research has given us a fantastic insight into the organisation 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.

“The special placing of milk pots at the larger ceremonial buildings reveals that certain products had a ritual significance beyond that of nutrition alone. The sharing of food had religious as well as social connotations for promoting unity among Britain’s scattered farming communities in prehistory. ”

Dr Lisa-Marie Shillito, who analysed the pottery samples and recently joined Newcastle University, added: “The combination of pottery analysis with the study of animal bones is really effective, and shows how these different types of evidence can be brought together to provide a detailed picture of food and cuisine in the past”.

UNIVERSITY OF YORK

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Experts in York compiled a detailed picture of food and cuisine near Stonehenge © Mike Parker Pearson

Experts in York compiled a detailed picture of food and cuisine near Stonehenge
© Mike Parker Pearson

 

Original Article:

culture24.org.uk

By Ben Miller | 13 October 2015

 

Milk, yoghurt and cheese eaten in exclusive ceremonies around Stonehenge feasts, say archaeologists

Evidence from settlement where Stonehenge builders lived suggests well-organised community feasting.

Milk, yoghurt and cheeses could have been seen as “exclusive” foods or eaten predominantly in public ceremonies around the time Stonehenge was built, according to archaeologists using pottery and animal bones to analyse food from organised feasts during the 25th century BC.

New evidence from Durrington Walls, a late Neolithic monument and settlement site where the builders of nearby Stonehenge are thought to have lived, shows that pots in ceremonial spaces mainly carried dairy produce. Barbeque-style roasted pork and beef was detected in the chemicals of cooking vessels found in residential areas from the period.

“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 organised meals within the many houses at Durrington Walls,” says Professor Mike Parker Pearson, the University College London Professor who is the Director of the Feeding Stonehenge project.

“The special placing of milk pots at the larger ceremonial buildings reveals that certain products had a ritual significance beyond that of nutrition alone. The sharing of food had religious as well as social connotations for promoting unity among Britain’s scattered farming communities in prehistory. ”

“This new research has given us a fantastic insight into the organisation of large-scale feasting among the people who built Stonehenge.”

Together with researchers at the University of Sheffield, Parker Pearson’s team found “very little” evidence of plant food preparation across the site. They say mass animal consumption – particularly of pigs who were killed before reaching their maximum weight – presents “strong evidence” of planned autumn and winter slaughtering ahead of feasts.

“Evidence of food-sharing and activity-zoning at Durrington Walls shows a greater degree of culinary organisation than was expected for this period of British prehistory,” says Dr Oliver Craig, of the University of York, the lead author on the new paper in archaeological journal Antiquity.

“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-organised working community.”

Feasting in the time of Stonehenge
The main method of cooking meat is thought to have been boiling and roasting in pots – probably around indoor hearths.

Larger barbeque-style roasting was found to have taken place outdoors, evidenced by distinctive burn patterns on animal bones.

Bones from all parts of the animal skeleton were found, indicating that livestock was walked to the site rather than introduced as joints of meat.

Isotopic analysis indicates that cattle originated from many different locations – some far away from the site. This suggests a large number of volunteers were likely to have been drawn from far and wide.

The patterns of feasting contradict suggestions of a slave-based society where labour was forced and coerced.

Three museums to discover Stonehenge stories in

Stonehenge – English Heritage, Amesbury
Surrounded by mystery, Stonehenge never fails to impress. The true meaning of this ancient, awe-inspiring creation has been lost in the mists of time. Was it a temple for sun worship, a healing centre, a burial site or perhaps a huge calendar?

Wiltshire Museum, Devizes
Founded more than 150 years ago, the museum preserves the rich archaeological and historical treasures and records of Wiltshire, including the World Heritage Site of Avebury and Stonehenge.

The Salisbury Museum and Wessex Gallery of Archaeology
Home of the Stonehenge gallery, Warminster Jewel and famous Monkton Deverill gold torc, as well as displays of prehistory in Early Man; Romans and Saxons; the medieval history of Old Sarum and Salisbury (with the renowned Giant and Hob Nob); the Pitt Rivers (father of modern scientific archaeology) collection; ceramics and costume; a pre-NHS surgery and Turner watercolours.

 

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Blick Mead, near Stonehenge, where a charred toad’s leg was found. Photograph: University of Buckingham/PA

Topic: English delicacy?

Dig at Blick Mead, Wiltshire, a mile from Stonehenge, turns up bones of toad’s leg dating to between 7596BC and 6250BC

If you’re French, asseyez-vous, s’il vous plait. Archaeologists digging about a mile away from Stonehenge have made a discovery that appears to overturn centuries of received wisdom: frogs’ legs were an English delicacy around eight millennia before becoming a French one.

The shock revelation was made public on Tuesday by a team which has been digging at a site known as Blick Mead, near Amesbury in Wiltshire. Team leader David Jacques said: “We were completely taken aback.”

In April they discovered charred bones of a small animal, and, following assessment by the Natural History Museum, it has been confirmed that there is evidence the toad bones were cooked and eaten. “They would have definitely eaten the leg because it would have been quite big and juicy,” said Jacques.

The bones, from a Mesolithic site that Jacques is confident will prove to be the oldest continuous settlement in the UK, have been dated to between 7596BC and 6250BC.

And it’s not just toads’ legs. Mesolithic Wiltshire man and woman were enjoying an attractive diet. “There’s basically a Heston Blumenthal menu coming out of the site,” said Jacques. “We can see people eating huge pieces of aurochs, cows which are three times the size of a normal cow, and we’ve got wild boar, red deer and hazelnuts.

“There were really rich food resources for people and they were eating everything that moved but we weren’t expecting frogs’ legs as a starter.”

The discovery is entertaining, but has a wider importance, said Jacques, as it adds to evidence that there was a near-3,000-year use of the site. “People are utilising all these resources to keep going and it is clearly a special place for the amount of different types of food resources to keep them going all year round. Frogs’ legs are full of protein and very quick to cook: the Mesolithic equivalent of fast food.”

Jacques is senior research fellow in archaeology at the University of Buckingham which is funding a new dig on the site. He said it was looking increasingly likely that the site was the “cradle to Stonehenge” which was built around 5,000 years later.

Andy Rhind-Tutt, chairman of Amesbury museum and heritage trust, said: “No one would have built Stonehenge without there being something unique and really special about the area. There must have been something significant here beforehand, and Blick Mead, with its constant temperature spring sitting alongside the River Avon, may well be it.

“I believe that as we uncover more about the site over the coming days and weeks we will discover it to be the greatest, oldest and most significant Mesolithic home base ever found in Britain.”

Original article:
the guardian.com

Mark Brown, arts correspondent
The Guardian, Tuesday 15 October 2013

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Topic: Stonehenge settlement

Where there is a settlement there is hunting, gathering and the possibility of early farming. Besides I could never resist anything where Stonehenge was involved!

New archaeological evidence from Amesbury in Wiltshire reveals traces of human settlement 3,000 years before Stonehenge was even built

An excavation funded with redundancy money shows Stonehenge was a settlement 3,000 years before it was built.

The archaeological dig, a mile from the stones, has revealed that people have occupied the area since 7,500BC.

The findings, uncovered by volunteers on a shoestring budget, are 5,000 years earlier than previously thought.

Dr Josh Pollard, from Southampton University, said the team had “found the community who put the first monument up at Stonehenge”.

Archaeological blind spot’

The small-scale project has been led by Open University archaeologist David Jacques, who had to plough his redundancy money into it to make it happen.

The first aerial photograph of Stonehenge was taken in 1906
He first spotted the Amesbury site in aerial photographs as a student.

The photographs, in an archive at Cambridge University, showed a site known as Vespasian’s Camp just a mile from Stonehenge.

Assumed to have been completely landscaped in the 18th Century, Mr Jacques realised the area had not been and decided to investigate.

“The whole landscape is full of prehistoric monuments and it is extraordinary in a way that this has been such a blind spot for so long archaeologically,” he said.

“But in 1999 a group of student friends and myself started to survey this area of Amesbury.”

The site, which contains a natural spring, is the nearest source of fresh water to Stonehenge.

And Mr Jacques, with the theory it may have been a water supply for early man, believed there could be pristine and ancient archaeology waiting to be discovered.

“I suppose what my team did, which is a slightly fresher version, was look at natural places. Places in the landscape where you would imagine animals might have gone to, to have a drink,” he said.

“My thinking was where you find wild animals, you tend to find people, certainly hunter gatherer groups coming afterwards.”

And he was right.

Over the past seven years, the site has yielded the earliest semi-permanent settlement in the Stonehenge area from 7,500 to 4,700BC.

And carbon dating of material found at the site show people were there during every millennium in between.

“Here we are in this little nook at the bottom of a hill with a river running round it and it probably had more people coming to it in the Mesolithic period than it’s had people coming ever since,” he said.

‘Tip of iceberg’

For a project that has had limited funding it is already generating excitement amongst other leading archaeologists.

Professor Peter Rowley-Conwy, from Durham University, said: “The site has the potential to become one of the most important Mesolithic sites in north-western Europe.”

And Dr Pollard, from the Stonehenge Riverside Project, said “being able to demonstrate that there were repeated visits to this area from the 9th to the 5th millennia BC” was significant.

“I suspect he’s just hit the tip of the iceberg in terms of Mesolithic activity focussed on the Avon
around present day Amesbury,” he said.

The Flying Archaeologist – Stonehenge is broadcast on Friday, 19 April at 19:30 BST on BBC One West and South. The series is broadcast nationwide from Monday, 29 April at 20:30 BST on BBC Four.

bbc.co.uk
April 19, 2012

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Topic Not foody but…

I just couldn’t resist posting this even though it isn’t about food, still it mentions King Ale and who knows what else they might find once they excavate further, perhaps some sort of village or a great hall where food was prepared, let’s hope.

The remains of a 5,500-year-old tomb near Ale’s Stones, a megalithic monument where, according to myth, the legendary King Ale lies buried, has been discovered by Swedish archaeologists. The discovery is the product of a geophysical investigation of the area carried out in 2006.

Intrigued by a circular structure measuring about 165 feet in diameter with a rectangular feature in its center, archaeologists of the Swedish National Heritage Board decided to dig a trial trench.

“The outer circle was difficult to prove, but we did find vague traces at the spot, possibly imprints of smaller stones,” archaeologist Bengt Söderberg told Discovery News.

In the middle, the researchers found “several components” that are evidence of a dolmen, a megalithic portal tomb usually made of two vertical stones supporting a large flat horizontal stone on top.

“The components consisted of imprints of large stones belonging to a central grave chamber, which was surrounded by large stones and a brim of smaller stones,” Söderberg said.

Oriented north-south, the 65- by 26-foot dolmen dated to the Swedish early Neolithic period, about 5,500 years ago.

“We also found a blade, a scraper and some flakes of flint. This is not unusual when it comes to this type of graves,” Söderberg said.

According to archaeologist Annika Knarrström of the Swedish National Heritage Board, the dolmen was likely “the grave of some local magnate.”

“However, we have little data to really tell who was buried there,” Knarrström said.

The newly discovered dolmen lay just 130 feet from the spectacular Ales Stenar (“Ale’s Stones”), also known as “Sweden’s Stonehenge.”

Located near the fishing village of Kåseberga, the structure consists of 59 stones, each weighing up to 4,000 pounds, that appear to form a 220-foot-long ship overlooking the Baltic Sea.

Although some researchers argue that the stone formation was assembled 2,500 years ago, during the Scandinavian Bronze Age, most scholars agree that it dates back some 1,400 years, toward the end of the Nordic Iron Age.

Like Stonehenge, the enigmatic stone ship has raised many theories about its purpose. According to local folklore, it was the final resting place of a legendary leader known as King Ale. Other theories suggest it was an ancient astronomical calendar, a cemetery, or a monument to the Vikings. The newly discovered dolmen might provide new clues on the pre-history of the monument.

“Our findings confirm what we have long suspected: Some stone-built monuments might have stood on the ridge long before the Ale’s Stones,” Knarrström said.

The older stones, as well as those making the dolmen, were most likely reused to build the stone ship.

“This discovery also confirms our belief that the site must have attracted people in all times,” Knarrström said.

Photos: Top: Archaeologists clearing part of the trench with Ale’s Stones in the background. Credit: Annika Knarrström, Swedish National Heritage Board.

Middle: Detail from the west brim of the dolmen. Archaeologist Annika Knarrström puts a mark on one of the many small stones in the brim, after digitally measuring its position. Credit: Bengt Söderberg, Swedish National Heritage Board.

Bottom: Ale’s Stones, also known as “Sweden’s Stonehenge,” consists of 59 stones that appear to form a 220-foot-long ship overlooking the Baltic Sea near the fishing village of Kåseberga. Credit: Anders LageråsI/ Wikimedia Commons.

Original article:
By Rossella Lorenzi, Oct 2012
new.discovery.com

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Topic: Stonehenge,
Interesting information on Stonehenge especially as it relates to crops.

A detailed laser-scan survey of the entire monument has discovered 72 previously unknown Early Bronze Age carvings chipped into five of the giant stones.

Revealed: Early Bronze Age carvings suggest Stonehenge was a huge prehistoric art gallery

For part of its existence as an ancient temple, Stonehenge doubled as a substantial prehistoric art gallery, according to new evidence revealed yesterday.

A detailed laser-scan survey of the entire monument has discovered 72 previously unknown Early Bronze Age carvings chipped into five of the giant stones.

All of the newly discovered prehistoric art works are invisible to the naked eye – and have only come to light following a laser-scan survey which recorded literally billions of points micro-topographically on the surfaces of the monument’s 83 surviving stones. In total, some 850 gigabytes of information was collected.

Detailed analysis of that data – carried out on behalf of English Heritage – found that images had been engraved on the stones, normally by removing the top 1-3 millimetres of weathered (darker coloured) rock, to produce different sized shapes. Of the 72 newly discovered images revealed through the data analysis, 71 portray Bronze Age axe-heads and one portrays a Bronze Age dagger.

Prior to the laser survey, 46 other carvings (also of axe-heads and daggers) were known or suspected at Stonehenge – mostly identified visually back in the 1950s. The laser-scan survey has now confirmed the existence of those other images and provided more details about them.

The 72 new ‘rock art’ discoveries almost treble the number of carvings known at Stonehenge – and the monument’s largely invisible art gallery now constitutes the largest single collection of prehistoric rock carvings in southern Britain. Although now largely invisible to the naked eye, back in the Early Bronze Age the images, composed of then-unweathered (and therefore lighter coloured) stone would have been clearly visible.

The revelations are likely to be of huge importance to archaeologists’ understanding of a key part of Stonehenge’s life as a prehistoric temple.

It’s known that, when the main phase of the monument was initially built in the middle of the third millennium BC, it was designed primarily as a solar temple, aligned on the mid-winter and mid-summer solstices. But, as Stonehenge evolved over subsequent centuries, the extent to which other religious functions were added is not yet known.

Certainly, in the period 1800-1500 BC, vast numbers of individual monumental tombs were constructed in the landscape around Stonehenge and additional features (various circles of ritual pits) were laid out around the monument. The carved axe-heads and daggers also belong to this enigmatic period – and may signify some sort of expansion or change in the great stone circle’s religious function.

In Indo-European tradition axe-heads were often associated with storm deities – and some surviving European folklore beliefs suggest that upwards-facing axe blades were used as magical talismans to protect crops, people and property against lightning and storm damage. It’s potentially significant that every single one of the Stonehenge axe-head images have their blades pointing skywards, while the daggers point downwards. The axe-heads – the vast majority of the images – may therefore have been engraved as votive offerings to placate a storm deity and thus protect crops.

It may also be significant that the vast majority of the carvings either face a nearby set of tombs (from roughly the same period) – or the centre of Stonehenge itself. Rare evidence from elsewhere in Britain suggests that axe-head and dagger carvings could have funerary associations.

The laser-scan data shows that many of the axe-head images have exactly the same dimensions as up to half a dozen other images in the prehistoric Stonehenge ‘art gallery’. This in turn suggests that real axe-heads were being used as ‘stencils’ to help produce the images. If that’s the case, the largest axe-heads portrayed – up to 46 centimetres long – depict objects which were far bigger than archaeologists have ever found and which must have been for purely ceremonial or ritual use.

The laser-scan survey was carried out for English Heritage by a Derby-based survey company – the Greenhatch Group – last year. A subsidiary of York Archaeological Trust – ArcHeritage, also operating on behalf of English Heritage – then spent many months analysing and cataloguing the vast quantities of data.

“The new discoveries are of huge importance. They also demonstrate how emerging technologies can extract previously unsuspected and crucial information from a monument like Stonehenge,” said Marcus Abbott, Head of Geomatics and Visualization at ArcHeritage.

“As the previously invisible images started appearing on our computer screens, we stared in disbelief at the sheer quantity of carvings being revealed – and treble-checked all our data,” he added.

The survey and analysis has also yielded other new insights into Stonehenge. It’s revealed, through an examination of how finely the stone surfaces were worked, that the entire prehistoric temple was constructed to be viewed primarily from the north-east. That’s the side of the monument which is approached by what archaeologists have long believed to be a processional way, aligned with the solstices.

Because, it now seems that Stonehenge was built to be viewed from that direction, it suggests that some sort of religious procession made its way towards the monument, along that route, probably on mid-winter’s and mid-summer’s day.

Detailed analysis of the data also shows that one of the stones at the now ruinous south-west side of the monument was also very deliberately worked and shaped to allow a line of sight through to the setting sun on mid-winter’s day. This, along with other new evidence, suggests that the south-west side of the monument was once fully functional – and will reduce support for those who have, up till now, argued that Stonehenge was never completed. The implication therefore is that at some stage in its history there was a deliberate attempt at its destruction.

Particularly puzzling is the laser survey discovery that the prehistoric stone masons, who helped create Stonehenge, used two different stone-working techniques. The stone-dressing work on the monument’s great circle (both uprights and lintels) was accomplished by working parallel to the long sides of the stones, while the five stone ‘trilithons’ (the great horse-shoe arrangement of linteled stones) within the great circle were dressed by working at right-angles to the sides of the stones.

This previously unknown fact – revealed by the laser scan operation – suggests that the great ‘trilithons’ may have been constructed slightly before the great circle rather than being contemporary with it.

Original article:
independent.co.uk

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