Stonehenge: fruit bread as a winter power food?

Fruit sandwiches

This is what the Neolithic fruit loaves might have looked like. (Image: English Heritage)

The Stone Age visitors to the stone circles of Stonehenge could have fortified themselves with some kind of fruit bread at their winter solstice celebrations. Archaeologists have discovered evidence in the form of fossil remains of nuts, sloes and wild apples during excavations in Durrington Walls, a Stone Age settlement near Stonehenge. Mixed with grain and animal fat, these fruits and nuts could have been baked to make a kind of fruitcake.

For the great ceremonies at the stone circle of Stonehenge and the neighboring settlement of Durrington Walls almost 5000 years ago, probably thousands of people traveled from afar. As a result, large crowds had to be fed, especially on solstices and equinoxes. What was to be eaten and where the food came from is revealed by remains of food in shards of clay pots and animal bones that were found during excavations in Durrington Walls.

Nuts and fruits as a Stone Age feast

According to archaeological finds, pigs from all over the area were brought to Stonehenge and Durrington Walls en masse for the grand celebration and then slaughtered on site. The meat was then both boiled and grilled over an open fire, as evidenced by the residues. There was also milk and dairy products. According to researchers headed by Mike Pearson from University College London, the preparation and distribution of these dishes was surprisingly well organized for this early era.

But especially in winter, for example at the winter solstice on December 21st, a special refreshment could have been served in Stonehenge and Durrington Walls: a kind of bread or flatbread with fruit and nuts. Remnants of hazelnuts, sloes, wild apples and other fruits that were partially heated provide evidence of this. “Thanks to the Stonehenge Riverside Project, we now have findings that tell us that the people there had access to nutritious fruits and nuts and that they might even use them into cooked or baked dishes,” says Susan Greaney, historian with the English Heritage Foundation.

Power food for ceremonies and travelers

According to Greaney and her colleagues, visitors to Stonehenge could have made some kind of power food from these ingredients for their winter ceremonies. “We know celebrating midwinter was important to the builders of Stonehenge,” says Greaney. “By mixing animal fat with the hazelnuts and fruits, she could have produced a high-calorie and long-lasting power food,” says the historian.

It is possible that the first pies filled with fruits and nuts were created with the addition of grain, ground hazelnuts or acorns. These Neolithic delicacies could then have been baked like flat cakes on a hot stone or in a ceramic pot over the fire. “Food like this could have been eaten during the festivities, but also as a snack in between,” says Greaney. “Sharing such food contributed to the social bond of the community and made it possible for people to travel from afar. We’ll probably never find out which recipes they preferred back then, but it’s nice to imagine that the travelers in Stonehenge were greeted with trays full of fruitcakes. “

Source: English Heritage

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