Evidence of ancient celebratory feasts uncovered near Stonehenge

CNN  — 

Evidence of the earliest celebrations in Britain, which drew people and animals from hundreds of miles away, has been uncovered at four Late Neolithic complexes near Stonehenge – and pig was on the menu, according to a new study.

The UK henge complexes are some of the most studied and iconic prehistoric monuments in Europe, dating to between 2400 and 2800 BC. The earthworks served as ceremonial areas where resources and expenses weren’t spared. Close to the monuments of Stonehenge and Avebury, the four complexes are Durrington Walls, Marden, Mount Pleasant and West Kennet Palisade Enclosures.

Pigs were the animal of choice for feasting. The bones from 131 pigs were excavated at these sites, and researchers used isotope analysis to identify chemical signatures of the food and water the animals consumed to determine where they were from. Surprisingly, the animals came from as far away as Scotland, North East England and West Wales.

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

“These gatherings could be seen as the first united cultural events of our island, with people from all corners of Britain descending on the areas around Stonehenge to feast on food that had been specially reared and transported from their homes,” said Richard Madgwick, lead study author and lecturer in Cardiff University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion, in a statement.