Stonehenge: stone transport with pork fat?

Builders may have used tallow as a lubricant for transport carriages

Stonehenge is an impressive megalithic structure - but there are still many questions left to its origins. © narvikk / istock
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Stone Age Lubricant: Lard could have facilitated the transport of Stonehenge's massive stones. This is indicated by large amounts of fat residues in 4, 500-year-old clay pots near the megalithic structure. Previously, these remnants had been interpreted as relics of great eating. According to one archaeologist, however, it is something else: tallow, which may have been used as a grease for sledges, with the help of which the builders brought stones.

Stonehenge is probably the most famous megalithic structure in Europe. However, although this monument has been explored in South West England for decades, many secrets about its genesis remain open to this day. Although it is now known that at least the bluestone of the outer megalith ring were brought from the west of Wales.

Riddle about fat residues

However, how the builders positioned Stonehenge's massive stones is unclear.
Experiments suggest that some of the stones, for example, could have been rolled over tree trunks on wooden sledges. In any case, many hands were needed to transport the chunks - and all these workers had to be fed.

"Fat residues in Stone Age clay pots were interpreted in this context as evidence of large edibles, " said Lisa-Marie Shillito of Newcastle University. More than 300 fragments of such vessels have been found by archaeologists in Durrington Walls near Stonehenge. They date back to around 2500 BC and contain, among other things, pork fat.

Big tubs instead of dinnerware

But is this fat really a relic of extensive meals? Shillito doubts this: "Why is there so much lard in the jars when the animal bones excavated at the site indicate that most of the pigs were roasted on the spit - and not chopped and cooked in pots", states the archaeologist. display

There is also another finding against the interpretation of the fat deposits as traces of meals of the Stonehenge builders. Thus, a large part of the fat is found in shards that must have belonged to vessels in size and shape of crockery, rather than cooking and cooking eating utensils. "These residues could therefore also be related to the use of animal resources in a non-food context, " explains Shillito.

Document for the slide theory?

But in which? Shilito has a guess: sebum could have been stored in the large vessels. This animal visceral fat has served people for centuries as a grease on, for example, carriages. What if the builders of Stonehenge used the fat for that purpose?

"Such an interpretation would support the sled theory for transporting megaliths, " says the archaeologists. Accordingly, the grease could serve as a lubricant for the carriages on which the builders might transport the chunks. Whether this was really so remains for the time being, however, open. "A function of the vessels in connection with food is still possible. But other explanations are at least as plausible, "concludes Shilito. (Antiquity, 2019; doi: 10.15184 / aqy.2019.62)

Source: Newscastle University

- Daniel Albat