Friday, July 08, 2011


Around 8,000 years ago, prehistoric hunters killed an aurochs (a wild Eurasian ox) and their grilling techniques were frozen in time.Stone Age barbecue consumers first went for the bone marrow and then for the ribs, suggest the leftovers of an outdoor 7,700-year-old meaty feast described in the July issue of the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The remains, found in the valley of the River Tjonger, Netherlands, provide
direct evidence for a prehistoric hunting, butchering, cooking and feasting
event. The meal occurred more than 1,000 years before the first farmers with
domestic cattle arrived in the region.

Although basic BBQ technology hasn't changed much over the millennia, this
prehistoric meal centered around the flesh of an aurochs that was larger than today's cows. It sported distinctive curved horns.

"The animal was either caught in a pitfall trap and then clubbed on the head, or shot with a bow and arrow with flint point," co-author Wietske Prummel, an associate professor of archaeozoology at the University of Groningen, told Discovery News.

Prummel and colleague Marcel Niekus pieced together what happened by studying an unearthed flint blade found near auroch bones. These show that after the female auroch was killed, hunters cut its legs off and sucked out the marrow.

According to the study, the individuals skinned the animal and butchered it, reserving the skin and large hunks of meat for carrying back to a nearby settlement. Chop marks left behind by the flint blade show how the meat was meticulously separated from the bones and removed. Burn marks reveal that the hunters cooked the meaty ribs, and probably other smaller parts, over an open fire. They ate them right at the site, "their reward for the successful kill," Prummel said.

The researchers suspect these people lived in large settlements and frequented the Tjonger location for auroch hunting. After the Iron Age, the area was only sparsely inhabited -- probably due to the region becoming temporarily waterlogged -- until the Late Medieval period.

The aurochs couldn't escape extinction."It became extinct due to the destruction of the habitat of the auroch since the arrival of the first farmers in Europe about 7500 years ago," Prummel said. "These farmers used the area inhabited by auroch for their dwellings, arable fields and meadows. The aurochs gradually lost suitable
habitat." The last aurochs died in 1627 at a zoo in Poland.


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