Scottish meat fed Neolithic man during Stonehenge construction

Stonehenge and the Scottish feast. Picture: contributed.
Stonehenge and the Scottish feast. Picture: contributed.
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The builders of Stonehenge feasted on pigs and cattle brought from as far away as north-east Scotland, a new exhibition at the Neolithic site shows.

Milk also played an important symbolic role in feasting ceremonies held by the prehistoric community who built the monument 4,500 years ago.

But experts said those early people had to turn milk into cheese and yogurt to eat it because they were lactose intolerant.

Highlights from the Feast! Food at Stonehenge exhibition include the skull of an aurochs – an extinct species of wild cattle with huge horns – and a rare complete bronze cauldron dating from 700BC, which would have formed a centrepiece for feasts.

The Stonehenge exhibition, which allows visitors to find out about the diet and lifestyle of people who built and used the site, also features a nearly complete and beautifully decorated pot used in the preparation of pork and beef dishes.

The displays show research and stories from the Feeding Stonehenge project, which explores the lives of the people who lived at the nearby settlement of Durrington Walls in the late Neolithic period, English Heritage said.

Thousands of discarded animal bones and teeth were excavated at Durrington Walls between 2004 and 2009.

The findings suggest it was not a typical village, but a site of major feasting and ceremony where large amounts of beef and pork were eaten.

Isotope analysis of the pig and cattle teeth revealed that people were bringing some of the animals from as far as 500 miles away.

The research suggests Stonehenge was known across Britain and people journeyed to help build the monument and take part in feasts.

Pottery found at Durrington Walls also shows the people living there used larger, grooved ware pots to cook meat stews and smaller vessels for processing dairy products. The dairy pots were mainly found at a timber ceremonial circle there, suggesting milk played a symbolic role.

English Heritage historian Susan Greany said: “Our exhibition explores the important role feasts and food played at Stonehenge. Raising the ancient stones was an incredible feat, but so too was feeding the army of builders. Our exhibition reveals just how this was done.”