Byline: NEIL MCKAY
VEGETARIANS would have endured a miserable time in Late Neolithic Britain when the pig was the nation's favourite feast.
But it was not so much a bacon sandwich as a hog-roast which tickled the taste-buds of our ancestors.
That is one of a number of fascinating facts about our ancestors dietary habits which will be revealed by archaeologists in Durham on Saturday.
The day-long series of talks and practical workshops at Durham University entitled Eating Through Time will highlight how archaeologists find out what people ate - and how they obtained their food - thousands of years ago.
Participants will discover how archaeologists recover and interpret the remains of the plants and animals that people ate and what effects poor diet had on people in the past.
The team of archaeological experts include Durham University's Professor Peter Rowley-Conwy.
Saturday's event, which is part of the Council for British Archaeology (CBA) Festival of Archaeology, will explore the many techniques used by world leading archaeologists to reconstruct what and how people ate in the past and how their diet affected the human body.
Prof Rowley-Conwy said: "By allowing people to get involved in a hands-on way during the practical workshops as well as listening to some of our foremost experts talk on the subject we will be raising awareness of just what a vital role this little known area of archaeology plays in discovering our distant past.
"By dissecting the remains of food such as fish and animal bones and plants we are able to detect whether it was just a meal or whether it was a more ritualistic feast and how their diet affected them.
"Using various techniques we can establish from the size of the bones what era and even season the food was devoured in, from late Neolithic times 4,500 years ago, the hunter gathering habits of people 7,500 years ago and the very distant past up to 11,000 years ago." He added: "The Late Neolithic (3000-2500BC) was a unique period in the dietary history of Britain. More stress was laid on meat than at any other time in Britain's past.
"The pig was the favoured animal. Sheep, goats, cattle and horses all have secondary products - milk, wool, or their power to pull vehicles - but pigs can only be eaten. Both pigs and cattle were consumed in small-scale feasts, which took place mainly in winter. Dairy products were probably the main animal foods used in the summer. "Despite this stress on meat, cereal products were probably more important in the diet as a whole.
"In this talk I will discuss how we recognise feasting in the archaeological record, and also how we can detect the use of dairy products. …