Primitive bulls did not allow the surroundings of Stonehenge to overgrow with forest

(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists conducted a study of sediment samples taken at the Mesolithic site of Bleek Mead, which is located next to Stonehenge. It turned out that even before the arrival of the Neolithic population on these lands and the construction of the famous cromlech, there were spaces free from the forest.

Apparently, large ungulates, such as primitive bulls, grazing on these lands all year round, prevented natural succession. This is reported in an article published in the journal PLoS One.

In 2005, about two kilometers from Stonehenge, archaeologists discovered the Mesolithic site of Bleek Mid, the study of which is still ongoing.

These hunter-gatherers, who visited the site for about four thousand years, are associated with the construction between the 9th and 7th millennia BC of the first ritual objects on the site of the future cromlech.

During the excavations, archaeologists found more than 100,000 stone artifacts, at least 100 kilograms of burnt flint and 2,400 fragments of animal bones at the Bleek Mid site.

Primitive bulls did not allow the surroundings of Stonehenge to overgrow with forest 2
Micromorphological analysis of loose deposits

The study of definable remains showed that more than half of them belonged to primitive bulls (Bos primigenius). Red deer (Cervus elaphus), elk (Alces alces), roe deer (Capreolus) and wild boar (Sus scrofa) were less common. In addition, one of the teeth belonged to a dog (Canis familiaris).

Analysis of the raw materials for stone tools has led scientists to assume that people from different parts of Britain came to the Blick Mead area. This was also indicated by the dog’s tooth, which was examined using stable isotope analysis.

Primitive bulls did not allow the surroundings of Stonehenge to overgrow with forest 3

Samuel Hudson from the University of Southampton, together with colleagues from Austria, Great Britain and Norway, conducted a study of the ancient monument of Bleek Mead to find out how the land where Stonehenge was subsequently built was free of forest in the Mesolithic era.

To do this, scientists selected sediment samples that were dated using radiocarbon analysis and optically stimulated luminescence.

The researchers decided to conduct a paleoecological reconstruction by analyzing ancient plant DNA in sediments and drawing on paleozoological and paleobotanical data.

The youngest specimens were obtained from alluvium dated to approximately 4236–4052 BC. The oldest of them could not be older than redeposited limestone rocks dated to the end of the Pleistocene or early Holocene (about 10380-7940 BC).

Primitive bulls did not allow the surroundings of Stonehenge to overgrow with forest 4

The results of the study showed that in the Late Mesolithic era, in the vicinity of the Blik-Mid site, there was a pasture with a deciduous forest adjoining it. According to scientists, the most likely reason why the open area was not completely overgrown with forest was the constant grazing of large ungulates on these lands.

First of all, we are talking about primitive bulls – probably the main object of prey for hunters from the Blik Mid site. The local conditions suited these animals well and provided them with a year-round source of food and water.

In past studies, scientists have found, using stable isotope analysis, that the primeval bulls from the Bleek Mead site did not make significant migrations. At the same time, archaeologists have not ruled out that Mesolithic hunter-gatherers may have deliberately cut down trees to maintain pasture.

Ultimately, paleoenvironmental evidence from the Bleek Mead site suggests that up until the extensive clearing of the area from the forest, which occurred in the late Neolithic, open areas remained in the Stonehenge region.

These were favorable places, including springs and wetlands, where ungulates prevented natural succession. Probably, these lands were also associated with ritual activities, which attracted people there from different territories.

In particular, evidence of such activity, which dates back to the earliest hunter-gatherers of Bleek Mead, is found at the site where Stonehenge was later erected.

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