Feeding Stonehenge: provisioning henges and households in southern Britain in the 3rd millennium BC

Lead Research Organisation: University of Sheffield
Department Name: Archaeology

Abstract

This project is the third in a trilogy of multi-institutional research investigations aimed at revolutionizing our knowledge of Stonehenge: investigating the monumental landscape of Stonehenge (the Stonehenge Riverside Project), the people of Stonehenge (the Beaker People Project), and the economic provisioning for Stonehenge and associated sites (Feeding Stonehenge, this project).

This proposal is for a study of the material resources required for building Stonehenge and the other henge complexes of Wessex. It goes beyond already-completed surface analysis of finds and investigates inside them, using newly developed scientific analyses to find out about the animal, vegetable and mineral resources utilized by these prehistoric people - where the resources were found, how far they were brought, how they were prepared, and how they were consumed and discarded. All the proposed analyses have been trialled by pilot studies to ensure that they will deliver significant findings.

Stonehenge and its associated sites undoubtedly attracted builders and celebrants from many parts of Neolithic Britain. Until now, archaeologists have only been able to speculate on the size and nature of these sites' catchments and on whether centres such as Avebury and Stonehenge were in competition with each other or were visited at different times in the seasonal round. Isotopic and age analysis of the herds slaughtered for feasting at Durrington Walls and other henges will reveal patterns of rearing, mobility and seasonality to answer these questions. Preliminary investigations have produced unexpected results: they indicate that the animals were brought considerable distances to ceremonial centres.

While much work has been done on the Welsh bluestones brought to Stonehenge, relatively little attention has been paid to the large sarsens. Excavations at Stonehenge in 2008 have revealed that sarsen-working methods varied within and around the monument, allowing earlier excavation results to be re-assessed, to increase our understanding of the methods, process and techniques of stone-working. From largely forgotten antiquarian observations 300 years ago, some of the quarry sites may have been about 20 miles from Stonehenge, between Avebury and Marlborough.

Recent excavations of the Stonehenge people's houses at Durrington Walls will also provide new information: scientific study of the finds will reveal detailed insights into the people's way of life. Geochemical and geophysical analysis of the house floors and yard surfaces will reveal spatial patterns of occupation and activities within a village probably inhabited by the builders of Stonehenge. Combined with the spatial mapping of artefacts, plant remains and animal bones (both large and microscopic), these analyses can reveal how interior and exterior domestic spaces, as well as ceremonial spaces, were used within this short-lived but large settlement occupied for less than 50 years around 2500 BC.

Study of the Durrington Walls settlement's animal bones will indicate dietary preferences, methods of carcass dismemberment and consumption patterns, and reveal differences between small-scale domestic and large-scale ceremonial settings. This settlement was inhabited about 50 years before copper tools are thought to have been adopted in Britain, and there is tantalising evidence that copper axes may have been used at Durrington Walls; the study of cut-marks on animal bones should reveal whether any were made by copper daggers as opposed to flint tools. Study of the hundreds of flint arrowheads, some embedded in pig bones, will reveal patterns of use and breakage as well as variations in manufacture by stone-tool makers with varying knapping skills.

The large quantity of pottery from Durrington Walls can be analysed to find out where it was made and what was cooked in it. Preliminary studies suggest local manufacture from riverine clay; contents included dairy products, pork and beef.
 
Description 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 is coming to an end in 2013, and the results will be published in a series of scientific papers and monographs in the coming years.
Exploitation Route The research has proven to be of great interest to the public around the world. It was recently the subject of a Channel 4 TV documentary (broadcast March 2013 to over 2 million viewers). A longer version of the documentary will be shown on European TV later this year. The press release accompanying the documentary led to publication in British and foreign newspapers. The project's results are also being incorporated into the new Visitor Centre display at Stonehenge (currently over 1 million visitors pa). English Heritage are displaying an exhibition on our project, entitled 'Feeding Stonehenge', for temporary display in 2018-2019.The results are also the subject of a travelling exhibition on Stonehenge, to be opened in Tongeren, Belgium, in 2018.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Education,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL http://www.ucl.ac.uk/archaeology/research/directory/feeding-stonehenge-parkerpearson
 
Description New visitor centre for Stonehenge, series of TV documentaries, flagship project for AHRC and UK Trade & Investment 'Research is Great' campaign. New initiative by English Heritage and this project's members to stage a temporary exhibition on Feeding Stonehenge at the Stonehenge Visitor Centre in 2018-2019. New travelling exhibition in preparation for 2018 onwards.
First Year Of Impact 2011
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Construction,Creative Economy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic

 
Description Archaeological advisor to English Heritage on new Stonehenge visitor centre
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
 
Description AHRC Follow-on funding for Impact and Engagement
Amount
Funding ID AH/R005621/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK)
Start 11/2017 
End 11/2018
 
Description Consuming Prehistory: Feeding Stonehenge follow-on fund 
Organisation Cardiff University
Department School of History, Archaeology and Religion
PI Contribution To make the research results of the AHRC funded 'Feeding Stonehenge' project relevant to new audiences by focusing on food. In collaboration with English Heritage, we have a project that provides us with unparalleled access to Stonehenge as a focus for knowledge exchange and engagement and will see us bring new local, national and international audiences to our research. We are increasing the volume of engagement by national and international audiences at Stonehenge, and creating and delivering workshops to engage national audiences.
Collaborator Contribution To make the research results of the AHRC funded 'Feeding Stonehenge' project relevant to new audiences by focusing on food. In collaboration with English Heritage, we have a project that provides us with unparalleled access to Stonehenge as a focus for knowledge exchange and engagement and will see us bring new local, national and international audiences to our research. We are increasing the volume of engagement by national and international audiences at Stonehenge, and creating and delivering workshops to engage national audiences.
Impact Temporary exhibition at the Stonehenge visitor centre in 2017-2019.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Consuming Prehistory: Feeding Stonehenge follow-on fund 
Organisation University of York
Department Department of Archaeology
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution To make the research results of the AHRC funded 'Feeding Stonehenge' project relevant to new audiences by focusing on food. In collaboration with English Heritage, we have a project that provides us with unparalleled access to Stonehenge as a focus for knowledge exchange and engagement and will see us bring new local, national and international audiences to our research. We are increasing the volume of engagement by national and international audiences at Stonehenge, and creating and delivering workshops to engage national audiences.
Collaborator Contribution To make the research results of the AHRC funded 'Feeding Stonehenge' project relevant to new audiences by focusing on food. In collaboration with English Heritage, we have a project that provides us with unparalleled access to Stonehenge as a focus for knowledge exchange and engagement and will see us bring new local, national and international audiences to our research. We are increasing the volume of engagement by national and international audiences at Stonehenge, and creating and delivering workshops to engage national audiences.
Impact Temporary exhibition at the Stonehenge visitor centre in 2017-2019.
Start Year 2017
 
Description Feeding Stonehenge 
Organisation British Geological Survey
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Analyses for research project
Collaborator Contribution Scientific analysis
Impact Numerous journal articles and book chapters
Start Year 2010
 
Description Feeding Stonehenge 
Organisation British Geological Survey
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Analyses for research project
Collaborator Contribution Scientific analysis
Impact Numerous journal articles and book chapters
Start Year 2010
 
Description Feeding Stonehenge 
Organisation University of Sheffield
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Analyses for research project
Collaborator Contribution Scientific analysis
Impact Numerous journal articles and book chapters
Start Year 2010
 
Description Feeding Stonehenge 
Organisation University of Sheffield
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Analyses for research project
Collaborator Contribution Scientific analysis
Impact Numerous journal articles and book chapters
Start Year 2010
 
Description Feeding Stonehenge 
Organisation University of York
Department Archaeology Data Service (ADS)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Analyses for research project
Collaborator Contribution Scientific analysis
Impact Numerous journal articles and book chapters
Start Year 2010
 
Description Feeding Stonehenge 
Organisation University of York
Department Archaeology Data Service (ADS)
Country United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland (UK) 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Analyses for research project
Collaborator Contribution Scientific analysis
Impact Numerous journal articles and book chapters
Start Year 2010
 
Description A History of Ancient Britain TV mini-series 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact TV miniseries viewed by over 1 million
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Archaeological Institute of America's 2011-2012 Samuel H. Kress Lecturer in Ancient Art - lecture tour of US & Canada 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Over 1000 people attended the lectures at 14 venues across North America
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description International lecture tour of Canada, US, Belgium and Ireland 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Lecture tour on results of AHRC-funded Stonehenge research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Lecture tour of Germany, Sweden, Netherlands and Portugal 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Lectures, keynote addresses and conference papers on AHRC-funded Stonehenge research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Lecture tour of Spain, Netherlands, Denmark, Turkey, Ireland, Canada and US 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Lectures on AHRC-funded Stonehenge research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008
 
Description Lecture tour of US and Australia 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Lectures on AHRC-funded Stonehenge research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2007
 
Description Lecture tour of US, Denmark, Ireland, Germany & Mexico 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Lectures, day schools and UNESCO committee meetings to present AHRC-funded Stonehenge research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Lecture tour of US, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and Spain 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Lectures on AHRC-funded Stonehenge and Beaker People research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Lecture tour of US, Sweden, Germany, Spain and South Korea 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Lectures on AHRC-funded Stonehenge and Beaker People research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2010
 
Description Secrets of the Stonehenge Skeletons, Oxford Scientific Films, C4 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This has been broadcast to well over 1 million in the UK and Europe
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description Stonehenge through the ages, BBC4 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact This TV documentary was watched by well over 100,000 viewers
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description UNESCO conference (Malaga) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact UNESCO world heritage of megaliths committee, based on AHRC-funded Stonehenge research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Walking through History TV documentary 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact TV documentary viewed by over 1 million
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014