There are some people who love butter so much, it sometimes looks like they’re breading their butter instead of the other way around. There are some chefs who use butter so much, it almost seems like they worship it. Then there is the Neolithic community that lived in Wales some 5,000 years ago who really DID worship butter. That’s according to an archeological project at the Trellyffaint Neolithic monument near Newport, Pembrokeshire, in West Wales, where recently excavated burial artifacts point to it being the oldest known dairy farm in Wales where butter, cheese and possibly yogurt were part of a new religious ideology.
According to the Megalithic Portal, the Trellyffaint tomb is a double tomb with a large and small chamber lying side by side. While not one of the people buried there, the name Trellyffaint means "Home of the Toads" and refers a local man called Sisillus Long Leg who legend says was plagued by and eventually eaten by a large number of toads. What Dr. George Nash of the Welsh Rock Art Organization and his team found there was dairy fat residues on the inner surfaces of pottery fragments, which dated them to 3,100 BCE. As the BBC reports, this evidence of dairy farming, dairy production, pottery making and food procurement as part of burying and venerating the dead makes this evidence of the transition from the hunting, fishing and gathering way of life to one of agriculture, which venerated the earth and used the gifts of the earth for worshiping and other religious rituals.
“The pottery recovered from this excavation probably reveals something about the veneration of the earth and what it could provide, hence the offering of dairy products within a ritualised landscape".
This is the UK and Wales is where the stones for Stonehenge originated, so it makes sense that the smaller standing stones and two henges of Trellyffaint were used to rituals like its big cousin. In fact, one large stone has around 75 engraved circular indentations and connecting lines which are rare on Neolithic burial-ritual monuments in Wales. They appear to represent the night sky and the constellations. Ancient Origins points out that this is the true symbol of this major Neolithic transition period – while hunters used the stars to track migrating wildlife, farmers depended on the Sun, Moon and earth. Thus Trellyffaint may have covered all of the worship options for a changing world. And what better way to thank and appease the gods of farming than with gifts of the product which makes it all worthwhile – butter!
The Trellyffaint artifacts will be located at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff while Dr. Nash and his team waits for publication of their research in several international scientific journals. It’s a safe bet that the celebration when this happens will include cheese, yogurt and butter – lots and lots of butter.