Stonehenge builders fuelled themselves on sweet treats including 'Neolithic mince pies', excavation suggests

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Excavation work has been led by English Heritage at Durrington Walls, WiltshireDurrington Walls was inhabited by the builders of Stonehenge in about 2,500 BCEvidence suggests traces of hazelnuts, sloes, apples and other fruits at the site 

The builders of Stonehenge fuelled themselves with sweet treats containing foraged fruit and nuts, including ‘Neolithic mince pies’, recent excavation work reveals. 

Led by English Heritage, experts have been excavating Durrington Walls, the nearby settlement inhabited by the builders of Stonehenge in about 2,500 BC.

Archeological evidence suggests the historical labourers gathered and cooked hazelnuts, sloes, crab apples and other fruit.

There is no direct evidence for pastry being used, but people at the time knew how to grow cereal crops and could have made pastry from wheat, hazelnut or acorn flour to make mince pies.

These festive Neolithic treats could have been baked using a flat stone or ceramic pot heated in the embers of a fire, rather like a Welsh cake, English Heritage said.

The second and most dramatic stage of constructing Stonehenge started around 2150 years BC. Around this time, Stonehenge builders likely cooked hazelnuts, sloes, crab apples and other fruits, evidence suggests

The second and most dramatic stage of constructing Stonehenge started around 2150 years BC. Around this time, Stonehenge builders likely cooked hazelnuts, sloes, crab apples and other fruits, evidence suggests 

‘Adding meat fats to hazelnuts and fruit would have made a great energy bar, full of calories,’ said Susan Greaney, English Heritage’s senior properties historian. 

‘Such foods might have been eaten for celebration as well as sustenance, with the sharing of food helping the community to bond, encouraging people to travel from far and wide to help build Stonehenge.

‘We’ll never know for certain what recipes they favoured, but it’s fun to imagine travellers being greeted with a tray of mince pies.’

Remnants of charred plant remains have led researchers to suggest recipes may have been followed to help preserve and make foods palatable.

It is believed the builders of Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, were eating pork, beef and dairy, but until now whether or not they consumed sweeter foods was unclear. 

Durrington Walls is two miles (3.2 km) north-east of Stonehenge, but it's located within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. This shot of the landscape faces west, with the town of Durrington bottom right and Stonehenge top left

Durrington Walls is two miles (3.2 km) north-east of Stonehenge, but it’s located within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. This shot of the landscape faces west, with the town of Durrington bottom right and Stonehenge top left

English Heritage volunteers will be baking festive pies, inspired by the discovery, around the hearth in the Neolithic Houses at Stonehenge every Monday in December.

‘We know that midwinter and feasting were really important to the builders of Stonehenge,’ said Susan Greaney, the charity’s senior properties historian.

‘Thanks to the Stonehenge Riverside Project, we’re lucky to have evidence which tells us that they had access to nutritious fruit and nuts, and that they may even have made and cooked recipes.’  

Durrington Walls is two miles (3.2 km) north-east of Stonehenge, but it’s located within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

Earlier this month, a a series of deep pits which were discovered at Durrington Walls last year were confirmed as having been made by ancient Britons – after some experts dismissed them as mere natural features.

The 20 pits, which are more than 30 feet across and 16 feet deep, are arranged in a circle shape around Durrington Walls.  

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