The first thing many guys do when they finally get a little piece of real estate to call their own is to build a big stone barbecue pit in the backyard for roasting and grilling tasty chunks of meat to consume after a hard day at work. New evidence unearthed in England suggests that this practice dates back to the Neolithic period. Could that have been the real purpose of Stonehenge?
According to a study published in Antiquity Journal, historians believe that the Neolithic builders of Stonehenge lived about 2 miles down the road at what is now called Durrington Walls. Archaeologists from the University of York digging at Durrington Walls recently uncovered pottery shards and animal bones. You know what that means, don’t you?
Well, no. First they studied the bones to determine they were from cows and pigs. Then they analyzed the insides of the pottery pieces and found that they had once held roasted and grilled meats and dairy products. Or as they described it:
… evidence of organized feasts featuring barbecue-style roasting.
Grilled beef and dairy products – were they eating cheeseburgers? Probably not. A hard day of hauling 55 ton stones from quarries to the building site required a lot more food for energy. The researchers found distinctive burn patterns on the bones that suggested the big chunks of meat were roasted. Remains of entire skeletons were also found, suggesting that live animals were brought there for large feasts.
These feasts sound like a modern-day outdoor barbecue. Dr Oliver Craig, lead author of the study, described the scene:
Evidence of food-sharing and activity-zoning at Durrington Walls shows a greater degree of culinary organization 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.
While we like a slice of cheese on our burgers, Professor Mike Parker Pearson says the location of the milk products meant something more to these people.
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.
Stonehenge may not have been a giant barbecue pit, but it was definitely a place for feasting on roast meat with friends and co-workers. Sounds like a Neolithic backyard barbecue party to me.