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Stonehenge dates BYO back to the Stone Age

Viewed from the A303, the trunk road that runs across southern Britain, Stonehenge looks rather like a collection of Weetabix artfully arranged in a field. A little underwhelming, perhaps.

To really appreciate the magic, the world’s most famous stone circle, presumed to be at least 4,500 years old, needs to be viewed close up and with a mind alert – and open – to its mysteries.

The most obvious of these mysteries is how the smaller ‘bluestones’, weighing around 2.5-five tonnes each, came to be in a field in Wiltshire, 250km away from their home in Wales.

According to site owners English Heritage this was most likely done by human effort, not by the movement of glaciers as some people believe, ‘via water networks and hauled over land’.

The other great mystery: why?

Again, the jury is out. But we can say, with some degree of certainty, that Stonehenge was a place to which people from all over Britain travelled, with some people visiting from as far north as Scotland.

It was a meeting place, in other words, and a pretty cool one at that! In fact the rules of the meeting appear to have been BYO – bring your own. Not wine, necessarily, but definitely swine.

A study of 131 pigs’ bones found at Stonehenge revealed the animals had been raised in Scotland, the North East of England and West Wales, as well as numerous other locations across Britain

Evidence, perhaps, of large-scale feasting rituals and, according to archaeologists, the earliest mass celebrations in Britain. Interestingly, researchers think guests had to bring meat raised locally to them.

Dr Richard Madgwick, from the University of Cardiff, told the BBC: “These gatherings could be the first united cultural events of our island, with people from all corners of Britain descending on the areas around Stonehenge to feast on food that had been specially reared and transported from their homes.”

He said finding pigs in the vicinity of the feasting sites would have been ‘relatively easy’ suggesting that the ‘rules dictated that offered pigs must be raised by the feasting participants, accompanying them on their journey, rather than being acquired locally’.

That must have been quite a slog. I’m not sure meeting planners would get away with asking delegates to bring their own F&B today!