Prehistoric excretions discovered in Wiltshire give clue to Stonehenge builders’ cooking skills | UK News
Ancient feces found near Stonehenge show its builders may have eaten poorly cooked beef offal during epic winter festivals.
The bizarre find at Durrington Walls, just 1.7 miles from the ancient stones in Wiltshire, dates back to 2,500 BC. BC when much of Stonehenge was built.
And an analysis of the faeces found has uncovered evidence of the eggs of parasitic worms.
This, says a team of archaeologists, suggests that residents ate the internal organs of cattle and fed leftovers to their dogs.
The team, led by the University of Cambridge, examined 19 pieces of ancient faeces, or coprolites, found at the settlement and preserved for more than 4,500 years.
Five of the coprolites (26%) – one human and four dogs – contained the eggs of parasitic worms.
The researchers suggest this is the earliest evidence of intestinal parasites in the UK, where the host species producing the faeces was also identified.
The lead author Dr. Piers Mitchell of the Department of Archeology in Cambridge said: “This is the first time intestinal parasites have been recovered from Neolithic Britain and found around stonehenge is really something.
“The type of parasite we are finding is compatible with previous evidence of winter feasting of animals during the construction of Stonehenge.”
Raw or undercooked lungs
Four of the coprolites, including the human, contained capillary worm eggs.
While the parasites infect a variety of animals, on the rare occasions that a European species infects humans, the eggs lodge in the liver and do not appear in the stool.
The scientists say evidence of them in human feces suggests the person had eaten the raw or undercooked lung or liver of an already infected animal, which caused the parasite’s eggs to travel directly through the body.
“Since capillary worms can infect cattle and other ruminants, it appears that cows were the most likely source of the parasite eggs,” explained Dr. mitchell
Previous analysis of cow teeth from Durrington Walls suggests that some cattle were herded to the site almost 100km from Devon or Wales for big festivals.
Co-author Evilena Anastasiou, who supported the research during her time at Cambridge, said: “The finding of capillary worm eggs in both human and dog coprolites indicates that humans ate the internal organs of infected animals and also the Their dogs fed the leftovers.”
Parasitology – it’s one thing
Prof Mike Parker Pearson of UCL’s Institute of Archaeology, who excavated Durrington Walls between 2005 and 2007, added: ‘This new evidence tells us something new about the people who came here for winter festivals during Stonehenge’s construction.
“Pork and beef have been roasted on a spit or cooked in clay pots, but it looks like the offal wasn’t always so well cooked.
“People in Durrington Walls did not eat freshwater fish, so they must have picked up the tapeworms from their home settlements.”
The results are published in the journal Parasitology.