Prehistoric excrement discovered in Wiltshire gives clue to culinary skills of Stonehenge builders | UK News

Ancient feces found near Stonehenge show that its builders may have eaten undercooked cow offal during epic winter feasts.

The bizarre find at Durrington Walls, just 2.8km from ancient Wiltshire Stones, dates to 2500BC, when much of Stonehenge was built.

And an analysis of the feces found revealed evidence of parasitic worm eggs.

This, according to a team of archaeologists, suggests that locals feasted on the internal organs of cattle and fed the remains to their dogs.

The University of Cambridge-led team investigated 19 pieces of ancient excrement, or coprolite, found at the colony and preserved for more than 4,500 years.

Five of the coprolites (26%) – one human and four dogs – contained parasitic worm eggs.

The researchers suggest this is the first evidence of intestinal parasites in the UK, where the host species that produces faeces has also been identified.

Lead author Dr Piers Mitchell, from Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology, said: “This is the first time that intestinal parasites have been recovered from Neolithic Britain, and finding them in the environment of Stonehenge is really something.

“The type of pests we find are consistent with previous evidence of winter feasting by animals during the construction of Stonehenge.”

Raw or undercooked lungs

Four of the coprolites, including the man’s, contained capillariid worm eggs.

While the parasites infect a wide range of animals, in the rare case that a European species infects humans, the eggs lodge in the liver and do not appear in the stool.

Scientists say evidence of their presence in human feces indicates that the person had eaten the raw or undercooked lungs or liver of an already infected animal, causing the parasite eggs to pass directly through the body. body.

“As capillariid worms can infect cattle and other ruminants, it appears cows were the most likely source of the parasite eggs,” Dr Mitchell explained.

Earlier analyzes of cow teeth from Durrington Walls suggest that some cattle were herded almost 100km from Devon or Wales to the site for a large-scale feast.

Co-author Evilena Anastasiou, who took part in the Cambridge research, said: “The discovery of capillariid worm eggs in human and canine coprolites indicates that people ate the internal organs of infected animals and also fed the remains. their dogs.”

Parasitology – it’s one thing

Professor Mike Parker Pearson, from UCL’s Institute of Archaeology, who excavated the walls of Durrington between 2005 and 2007, added: “This new evidence tells us something new about the people who came here. for the winter festivities during the construction of Stonehenge.

“Pork and beef were roasted on a spit or boiled in clay pots, but it seems the offal was not always cooked so well.

“People didn’t eat freshwater fish at Durrington Walls, so they must have caught the tapeworms in their home colonies.”

The results are published in the journal Parasitology.

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