Institute of Archaeology


Feeding Stonehenge

The Stonehenge Riverside Project, which undertook major excavations at the henge monument of Durrington Walls and elsewhere in the Stonehenge World Heritage site between 2004 and 2009, has led to further research to explore the lives of the people of Stonehenge.

The Feeding Stonehenge project is examining the huge assemblage of faunal remains from the excavations, using isotopic and other analyses to unravel the history of the domestic animals whose remains were found at Durrington Walls and other sites (Albarella, Evans, Montgomery, Viner). By tracing the lives of the animals, we can track the movements of the people themselves.

Preliminary results indicate that some of the domestic animals arrived in southern England from as far away as Scotland, opening up new questions about identity, political organisation and religious belief in the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age of Britain.

Other analysts are working on the ceramic assemblage, to discover what was cooked in the pottery by analysing lipid residues (Craig, Cleal). This gives us a real insight into the diet of these prehistoric people. Lithic analysis shows how people made and used material culture in this period around the arrival of metal in the British Isles (Chan).

This project came an end in 2013, and the results will be published in a series of scientific papers and monographs in the coming years.

Related outputs

  • Parker Pearson, M.2012. Stonehenge: exploring the greatest Stone Age mystery. London: Simon & Schuster.
  • Viner, S., Evans, J., Albarella, U. and Parker Pearson, M. 2010. Cattle mobility in prehistoric Britain: strontium isotope analysis of cattle teeth from Durrington Walls (Wiltshire, Britain). Journal of Archaeological Science 37: 2812-20.

  • Chan, B. 2011. Stonehenge, looking from the inside out: a comparative analysis of landscape surveys in southern Britain. In A. Saville (ed.) Flint and Stone in the Neolithic Period. Oxford: Oxbow. 116-38.

  • Parker Pearson, M., Pollard, J., Richards, C., Thomas, J., Welham, K., Albarella, U., Chan, B., Marshall, P. and Viner, S. 2011. Feeding Stonehenge: feasting in Late Neolithic Britain. In G. Aranda Jiménez, S. Montón-Subías and M. Sánchez Romero (eds) Guess Who's Coming to Dinner: commensality rituals in the prehistoric societies of Europe and the Near East. Oxford: Oxbow. 73-90.

  • Channel 4 television documentary 10 March 2013. Secrets ofthe Stonehenge Skeletons. Produced by Oxford Scientific Films.