Stonehenge was built with COW-power: Cattle that lived 8,000 years ago were used as ‘animal engines’


Stonehenge may have been built with the assistance of cows who helped carry the enormous rocks across the British Isles. 

It could help explain how the fabled bluestones managed to complete the journey from Wales to Wiltshire, where Stonehenge still sits today. 

Previous research has claimed the movement of glaciers deposited the huge slabs of rock 160 miles away from their original location. 

New research has found evidence of cattle being used by humans to pull and carry heavy loads for 8,000 years. 

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Archaeologists at University College London discovered that the bones in the feet of Neolithic cattle demonstrated distinctive wear patterns, indicative of exploitation as ‘animal engines’. 

Neolithic cattle in the Balkans were therefore being used for our purposes two millennia earlier than previously thought. 

It is believed that the use of bovines stemmed from a need to create settlements from felled wood and move it to different locations. 

The use of the animals during this period of neolithic history opens up the possibility they were used to transport Stonehenge’s rocks, which was erected at around 5,000 BC.

Research has revealed that cattle were being used for traction – to pull loads – from the earliest Neolithic habitation sites in the Balkans. 

‘Traction was not an ‘all-or-nothing’ situation; we need instead to reconsider it as a more complex process, with animals used as engines in multiple ways,’ Lead author Dr Jane Gaastra writes in the study. 

‘Our repeated identification of the exploitation of cattle for pulling heavy loads calls into question the current scope of the analysis and interpretation of the use of animals in prehistoric Europe.’ 

Experts say that if these practices can be found to have been used elsewhere it will have major ramifications on our understanding of animal use in the Neolithic.

Dr Gaastra writes: ‘A firm understanding of the nature of early traction evidence in prehistoric Europe has significant implications for our knowledge of both management practices and the nature of labour and movement in prehistoric societies’   


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