Landmark study reveals the monumental distances traveled for national mass gatherings — ScienceDaily


Archaeologists have discovered evidence of the first large-scale celebrations in Britain – humans and animals travel hundreds of miles during prehistoric banquets.

This study, led by Dr. Richard Madgwick of Cardiff University, is the most comprehensive study to date and examines the main foods of 131 pigs from four late Neolithic periods (2800-2400BC BC). The world's famous Stonehenge and Avebury monuments, four locations – Durrington Walls, Marden, Mount Pleasant and West Kennet Palisade Enclosures – hosted the first Pan-British event, attracting people and animals from all over the UK.

The results show that pig bones dug from these locations come from as far as Scotland, northeast England and West Wales, as well as many other places in the British Isles. Researchers believe that this may be very important for those who breed locally raised animals at home.

Prior to this, the origins of the people who attended the ceremonies on these megalithic monuments and the extent of population movements at the time were a long-standing mystery of prehistoric times in Britain.

Dr. Richard Majwick, of the School of History, Archaeology and Religion, said: "This study shows the scale of movement and the complexity of society that were not previously realized."

"These gatherings can be seen as the first joint cultural event on our island. People from all corners of the UK descended in the area around Stonehenge and enjoyed food that was specially raised and shipped out of their homes."

The Neolithic henge complex in the south of England represents a great feat of engineering and labor, and was the focus of the 3,000-year BC gathering. Pigs are the main animals used for feasts, and they provide the best indication of where the people who enjoy the feast at these locations come from, as few human remains are recovered.

Using isotope analysis to identify chemical signals in food and water consumed by animals, researchers can determine the geographic area of ​​pigs. This study provides the most detailed picture of the extent of flow across the UK at Stonehenge.

Dr. Madgwick said: "It can be said that the most surprising finding is the efforts of the participants to farm their own pigs. It is relatively easy to purchase them near the banquet venue.

"Pigs are not as suitable for long-distance movement as cattle, and whether they are slaughtered or transported on hooves, it takes hundreds or even tens of kilometers of effort.

"This indicates that the required contributions are required, and the rules provide that the pigs provided must be presented by the banquet participants to accompany them to travel, rather than locally."

Dr. Madgwick collaborated with colleagues from the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Cardiff University and scientists from the UK Geological Survey, the University of Sheffield and the University of London College's NERC isotope geoscience laboratory. The project is funded by the British Academy as part of a postdoctoral fellowship and is funded by the NERC Isotope Earth Science Facility Steering Committee.

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