The Builders of Stonehenge May Have Thrown Barbecues After Work

Daniel Garcia Neto, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0
Daniel Garcia Neto, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0 / Daniel Garcia Neto, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

With every monumental fact that science unearths about Stonehenge, the more mysterious the large stones become. According to new research conducted at a site believed to be a settlement for the builders of Stonehenge, the team of slab draggers may have spent their off-hours preparing meals of barbecue-style meats.

A team of archaeologists from the University of Sheffield and the University of York analyzed fat residue found on animal bones and shards of pottery at Durrington Walls, an area two miles away from Stonehenge that researchers say was once home to the largest Neolithic settlement in the whole of northern Europe. According to the study, published in the journal Antiquity, there were burn patterns on the bones that are consistent with barbecue-style cooking.

"This new research has given us a fantastic insight into the organization of large-scale feasting among the people who built Stonehenge," Mike Parker Pearson, an archaeologist at University College London and lead on the Durrington Walls excavation, said in a University of York press statement. "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 team also found that the pots used by the Neolithic settlers were kept in different areas, depending on their use. Dairy pots were stored in a ceremonial area, while cooking pots were found around the residential area. "The special placing of milk pots at the larger ceremonial buildings reveals that certain products had a ritual significance beyond that of nutrition alone," Pearson added. "The sharing of food had religious as well as social connotations for promoting unity among Britain’s scattered farming communities in prehistory."