Stonehenge’s Builders May Have Feasted on Mince Pies and Sweet Treats

2 12 2021

Excavations near the iconic English monument revealed traces of fruits and nuts.

  • Excavation work has been led by English Heritage at Durrington Walls, Wiltshire
  • Durrington Walls was inhabited by the builders of Stonehenge in about 2,500 BC
  • Evidence suggests traces of hazelnuts, sloes, apples and other fruits at the site 

Previously it was thought they had consumed pork, beef and dairy.

But excavations of the Durrington Walls settlement, inhabited by the builders of the monument in about 2,500 BC, suggest they collected and cooked hazelnuts, sloes and crab apples too.

Researchers said evidence of charred plant remains suggest they might have followed recipes to preserve the food.

There was no direct evidence for pastry being used, but people knew how to grow cereal crops and could have made pastry from wheat, hazelnut or acorn flour, English Heritage said.

Neolithic “mince pies” could have been baked on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire using a flat stone or ceramic pot heated in the embers of a fire, much like a Welsh cake, it added.

Travelers visiting Stonehenge this month can sample a dish that may have been enjoyed by the monument’s builders some 4,500 years ago. As Alex Green reports for PA Media, volunteers with English Heritage, the organization that cares for the prehistoric site, are cooking up mince pies with ingredients used by these Neolithic workers, including hazelnuts and crab apples.

‘We know that midwinter and feasting were really important to the builders of Stonehenge,’ said Susan Greaney, the charity’s senior properties historian.

‘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.’  

Durrington Walls is two miles (3.2 km) north-east of Stonehenge, but it’s located within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site.

Earlier this month, a a series of deep pits which were discovered at Durrington Walls last year were confirmed as having been made by ancient Britons – after some experts dismissed them as mere natural features.

The 20 pits, which are more than 30 feet across and 16 feet deep, are arranged in a circle shape around Durrington Walls.  

Stonehenge Relevant Links
Rock cakes? Stonehenge builders may have enjoyed mince pies – The Guardian
Stonehenge builders fuelled themselves on sweet treats including ‘Neolithic mince pies’, excavation suggests – Daily Mail
NEOLITHIC MINCE PIE RECIPE: Download open fire mince pie recipe card. English Heritage
Stonehenge’s Builders May Have Feasted on Sweet Treats – The Smithsonian
Visit Stonehenge and sample a mince pie – Stonehenge Guided Tours
Stonehenge builders had a sweet tooth, artefacts suggest – BBC News
Stonehenge builders fuelled themselves on sweet treats, excavation suggests – The Evening Standard
Private Guided Stonehenge Tours with the local experts – The Stonehenge Travel Company

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Durrington Walls Dig: August 2016

3 08 2016

Over the course of the last six years a team of archaeologists from across Europe led by Professor Vince Gaffney of Bradford University have been carrying out a series of cutting-edge geophysical surveys across an area approaching 10 square kilometres in the Stonehenge landscape.

They’ve made dozens of new discoveries, some of them entirely new sites. But one of the most astonishing things they’ve found is that something – in fact a whole series of somethings – lie buried beneath the 4,500 year old bank of Durrington Walls henge. Their surveys revealed an arc of large solid anomalies, some over two metres long. But the question was what were they?

Durrington 20160802

There was only one way to find out and that  was to dig. Which is why the combined forces of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, the Hidden Landscapes team and the National Trust are digging at Durrington Walls this August.

At the start of our  dig our best guesses were that they could be one of two things.

  1. they might be the remains of standing stones – now lying flat OR
  2. they might be pits dug to hold giant timber posts but then backfilled, similar to some unearthed by Professor Mike Parker Pearson and the multi-university Stonehenge Riverside Project near the southern entrance of the henge.

Durrington 1st post pit

The work has progressed incredibly quickly and we’ve already been able to answer the first part of our conundrum. We have what appears to be one very definite pit (in the picture above) and another taking shape on the opposite side of the trench.

Antler tine

Right next to the pit lay an antler tine. It needs to be cleaned and studied more closely but it may be the tip of an antler pick – and could be one of the tools used to dig the pit itself.  Our dig team have been going great guns with their modern steel pick axes – I’m not sure they would be so quite so keen if they had to use one of these. But our henge builders were made of sterner stuff – the whole of the massive henge bank and ditch was dug with antler picks.

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Stonehenge Riverside Project. A film from the AHRC

16 05 2015

This film from the AHRC is the latest in our specially commissioned series which celebrates the AHRC’s 10th anniversary. This film looks back to the year 2007 and the Stonehenge Riverside Project.

Led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson, the Stonehenge Riverside Project brought together academics from around the globe in one of the largest field archaeology research studies of the 21st Century.

The project set out to further understanding of Stonehenge and neighbouring complex, Durrington Walls. The project looked at the sites in the context of the surrounding landscape, and in doing so several remarkable discoveries were made including a new stone circle dubbed, ‘Bluehenge.’ The discovery catapulted the project to the forefront of the world‘s media and made front page of newspapers all over the world.


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