The ancient laborers who built the mysterious Stonehenge structure in Wiltshire, England may have used a surprising ingredient to construct the monument: pig fat.
The residue of pig fat on nearby pottery may help explain how the heavy massive stones weighing up to 30 tons were transported from great distances, when Stonehenge was constructed sometime between BC 3000 and BC 1600.
In the new study published in the journal Antiquity, Lisa-Marie Shillito, of Newcastle University, presented a theory suggesting that the people who built the prehistoric monument greased the log road with large amounts of pig fat.
Ceramic Vessels Likely Used To Catch Dripping Lard
Chemical analysis of large ceramic fragments discovered at the nearby Durrington Walls revealed the presence of pig fat. Remains of whole pigs were also found near the fragments. Researchers initially thought that these could be evidence of feasting during the construction of the structure.
Shillito explored an alternative but highly feasible explanation. If the pigs were intended to feed the Stonehenge laborers, the bones should have been chopped up, but archaeologists recovered whole carcasses.
The ceramic fragments are also too big to be the remains of vessels used for eating. These fragments are likely the remains of large buckets used to catch lard dripping from spit-roasted pigs.
"An alternative interpretation not previously considered is that these residues may be related to a non-food use of animal resources, such as in the production of tallow," Shillito said.
Greased Sled Theory
It remains unclear how exactly workers transported the Stonehenge stone. Research and experiments suggest the megaliths may have been loaded on giant sleds on top of greased wood tracks.
If the greased sled theory were correct, the lard was likely used to reduce friction and thus reduce the amount of work the builders had to do.
"Until now, there has been a general assumption that the traces of animal fat absorbed by these pieces of pottery were related to the cooking and consumption of food," Shillito said. "But there may have been other things going on as well, and these residues could be tantalising evidence of the greased sled theory,"