19 October 2017

Discover ancient eating rituals at Stonehenge with Feast!

A new exhibition at Stonehenge opens this month to showcase the diet of the Neolithic people who built and used the monument 4500 years ago.
A prehistoric spread set up outside of Stonehenge's stone circle © Andre Pattenden

Feast!, a new exhibition at Stonehenge opening Friday 20 October, will reveal what the late Neolithic community cooked and ate.

This research provides key culinary insights into the culture, rituals and identity of the people who lived here more than 4500 years ago.

The exhibition will explain how key finds indicate Neolithic people feasted on pigs and cows but were lactose intolerant. It will also show how their food was transported to the Wiltshire site from as far away as north-east Scotland.

Watch our live stream of the launch of Feast! on YouTube, Friday 5.30pm.

An English Heritage curator works on a skull of an auroch

What the research tells us about Stonehenge

The new research examined the lives of the people who lived at the nearby settlement, Durrington Walls, and uncovered thousands of discarded animal bones and teeth. This suggests that the area wasn't a typical Neolithic village, but a site of feasting and ceremony, where great amounts of beef and pork were eaten.

Isotope analysis of hundreds of pig and cattle teeth proves that these communities were bringing in animals from as far as 500 miles away. This indicates Stonehenge was well-known across Britain and people travelled far and wide to help build the monument, as well as take part in the midwinter feasts.

Feast! will display a collection of rare finds from the site including the skull of an aurochs, a now extinct species of wild cattle. Visitors will also see decorated Neolithic pots used in the preparation of pork and beef dishes and a rare complete bronze cauldron from 700BC that featured as a centrepiece of late Bronze Age ceremonial feasts.

Skull of an auroch © Andre Pattenden

A feast for the senses

English Heritage historian, Susan Greaney, 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.'

The exhibition has been developed by English Heritage in partnership with the Feeding Stonehenge project team from the Universities of York, Cardiff, Sheffield and UCL.

English Heritage would like to thank the following lenders for the loan of objects on display in the new exhibition at Stonehenge: The Salisbury Museum; Wiltshire Museum, Devizes; Mr and Mrs SJ Rawlins and Mr and Mrs WH Rawlins; Corinium Museum, Cotswold District Council; Historic England; Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales.

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Join us for our live stream

Ever wanted to know what the people who built and used Stonehenge were eating?

Join us from Stonehenge this Friday at 5:30pm as we travel back around 5000 years into the Neolithic era with Chris Hobbs from History Bombs. We'll be shedding light on the diet and lifestyles of our ancestors by drawing on recent archaeological discoveries and ground breaking science.

Don't miss the chance be part of the conversation the conversation. Tweet your questions for the experts by using the hashtag #SH_Feast.

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