science

Stonehenge builders ‘may have eaten mince pie-style winter pastries’



Heritage experts have speculated that neolithic Britons may have eaten mince pie-style sweet pastries during winter festivities.

Evidence from archaeological digs at the Durrington Walls site, near Stonehenge, suggests people more than 4,000 years ago collected and cooked crab apples, sloes, hazelnuts and other fruits.

And English Heritage said these early Britons also had the ability to grow cereal crops and potentially to make flour from wheat, or even hazelnuts or acorns.

This, it is imagined, might have allowed Stonehenge’s builders to make pastry, though there is no evidence for it.

Our neolithic ancestors, therefore, could have combined all this to create mince-pie style food, or perhaps “energy bars” if they added meat fat, according to English Heritage.

The charity is promoting “neolithic mince pies” which its Stonehenge volunteers are making and selling this winter. They are made with a mix of acorn flour and wheat-like grains that would have been used at the time.

Susan Greaney, a senior English Heritage historian, said: “We know that midwinter and feasting were really important to the builders of Stonehenge and 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.

“Adding meat fats to hazelnuts and fruit would have made a great energy bar, full of calories. 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.”

Experts already knew that pork, beef and dairy formed part of the neolithic diet, but had less to go on when it came to sweeter foods.

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