A Passion for Pork

The Site:

Durrington Walls, Wiltshire is a Late Neolithic henge enclosure consisting of a nearly circular enclosure, c. 470-480m across, surrounded by a ditch and external bank. This is breached by entrances in the east and west. The site is mentioned in literature from the 19th century. Early excavations were carried out in 1951-52, with the main excavation occurring in 1966-67.

Research Questions:

In this reinterpretation of the animal bone assemblage the authors set out to examine:

* Patterns of meat preparation and consumption, bone deposition and disposal

* Spatial distribution of the bones

The Bone Assemblage:

* Cattle (Bos taurus/primigenius) and Pig (Sus domesticus/scrofa) are the most common species, with pig the most abundant

* The age at death for pig was between 1-3 years. Cattle were mostly mature animals.

* Biometric analysis suggests pig were almost all domesticated, with one possible wild boar. There were a few possible wild aurochs amongst the cattle bones.

* Chop marks and cut marks common on both species, especially cattle.

* Evidence of burning on some elements

* Apparent under-representation of cranial and metapodial elements in pig.

* Fragments of flint embedded in four pig bones

* Unusually low amounts of canid gnawing

Conclusions:

* Butchery and burning evidence suggests large pieces of meat, even complete carcasses, were roasted on the bone.

* Whole carcasses of younger pigs were cooked and eaten in the area, whilst skulls and feet of older animals were removed elsewhere.

* Cattle and pigs butchered, consumed and disposed of in variety of ways showing diverse activity.

* Large amounts of meat probably produced in short time, suggesting feasting.

* Flints may indicate capture and slaughter of pigs in a ritual fashion

* Rapid disposal of remains

Reference:

Albarella, U, and Serjeantson, D. 2002. A Passion for Pork: Meat Consumption at the British Late Neolithic Site of Durrington Walls. In Miracle and Milner (eds). Consuming Passions and Patterns of Consumption. McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research: Cambridge. Pp 33-49.

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