Frogs legs found at Mesolithic dig serve up a culinary dilemma for Anglo French relations

15 October 2013

Frogs legs’ have long been considered to be the preserve of the French but a startling new discovery at an archaeological dig has revealed that they were in fact an English delicacy first.

Archaeologists at Amesbury, Wiltshire, have been stunned to find evidence of life in the Eighth Millenia BC. Among the finds at the site, known as Blick Mead, and so far dating back to the ice age, is the burnt humerus of a toad.

The charred toad’s leg bone was found alongside small fish vertebrate bones of trout or salmon and burnt Aurochs bones (the predecessor of cows). The finds date back to between 6250BC and 7596BC making this discovery the earliest evidence of a cooked toad or frog leg found in the world and around eight millennia before the French. This means that Frogs’ legs, long considered the preserve of the French were actually an English delicacy first in a settlement just over a mile from Stonehenge.

David Jacques, Senior Research Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Buckingham, which is funding a new dig on the site, said: “It would appear that thousands of years ago people were eating a Heston Blumenthal-style menu on this site, one and a quarter miles from Stonehenge, consisting of toads’ legs, aurochs, wild boar and red deer with hazelnuts for main, another course of salmon and trout and finishing off with blackberries.

“This is significant for our understanding of the way people were living around 5,000 years before the building of Stonehenge and it begs the question – where are the frogs now?”

The latest information is based on a report by fossil mammal specialist Simon Parfitt, of the Natural History Museum, who looked at the find. The site has already resulted in a staggering 12,000 finds, including 650 animal bones, all from the Mesolithic era.

The dig is being led by David Jacques and a team of leading experts in the Mesolithic period and is involving the local community and Amesbury Museum. David is hoping that with the backing of the University of Buckingham and the valuable team involved he will be able to confirm Amesbury as the oldest continuous settlement in the UK. The site already boasts one of the biggest collection of flints and cooked animal bones in north-western Europe. The term Mesolithic refers to specific groups of archaeological cultures defined as falling between the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic.

Andy Rhind-Tutt, Chairman of Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust, said that now Amesbury pre-dates Stonehenge by as much 5,000 years, the site at Blick Mead could help to explain why Stonehenge is where it is. “No-one would have built Stonehenge without there being something unique and really special about the area. There must have been something significant here beforehand and Blick Mead, with its constant temperature spring sitting alongside the River Avon, may well be it – I believe that as we uncover more about the site over the coming days and weeks, we will discover it to be the greatest, oldest and most significant Mesolithic home base ever found in Britain.”

Mr Rhind-Tutt added that the team would also be exploring the spring, which is itself creating interest with its colour changing magenta stones, expand its knowledge and understanding of how the Mesolithic hunter and gatherer lived in Southern Britain and find evidence of a settlement long before anywhere else. “Currently Thatcham – 40 miles from Amesbury – is proving to be the oldest continuous settlement in the UK with Amesbury 104 years younger. By the end of this latest dig, I am sure the records will need to be altered.”

The Amesbury dig will also be made into a documentary by the BBC, Smithsonian and CBC.


For more details contact Diana Blamires, University of Buckingham Publicity Officer:

Email: diana.blamires@buckingham.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)1280 820213 / +44 (0)774 8937484