Will These Pig Bones Solve Stonehenge Mystery?
New isotopic analysis of the remains of the animal bones found nearby promises to shed new light on what happened at Stonehenge.
Ask any archaeologist and historian directly and they will tell you—we know very little about the people who built Stonehenge and used it for religious rituals. There are all kinds of theories, including the improbable suggestion that it was constructed by aliens (looking at you, History Channel), but there is no consensus. One of the few things archaeologists do know is that the people who gathered there ate pork. But now, isotopic analysis of the remains of the animal bones found nearby promises to shed new light on what happened at Stonehenge.
The purpose of Stonehenge is a source of perennial fascination. Thousands of years ago people laboriously raised huge stones in a circular formation in an elevated field. The backbreaking work began around 3100 B.C. and those who were involved left no records of their purpose or goals. In the 12th century some people credited Merlin with the site’s construction. More recent studies have suggested that it was a burial site, healing shrine, soundscape, or even celestial observatory. One thing we do know is that the people who visited the sites feasted nearby.
Now a team of U.K.-based scientists from the universities of Cardiff, Sheffield, Leicester, and Nottingham have examined the bones of pigs unearthed at four late Neolithic (2800-2400 B.C.) sites: Durrington Walls, Marden, Mount Pleasant and the West Kennet Palisade. Each of these archaeological sites is located close to either Stonehenge (in Wiltshire) or Avebury (another Neolithic “henge” in Wiltshire, about 42 miles from the more famous Stonehenge).