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posted: 10/17/2013 6:00 AM

Evidence suggests early Britons ate roasted toads

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  • Archaeologists said Wednesday that an excavation about a mile from Stonehenge has unearthed a host of clues about the diet of prehistoric Britons. Among them: A tiny, partially burnt toad bone, which suggests they snacked on amphibians thousands of years before the practice became associated with the French.

      Archaeologists said Wednesday that an excavation about a mile from Stonehenge has unearthed a host of clues about the diet of prehistoric Britons. Among them: A tiny, partially burnt toad bone, which suggests they snacked on amphibians thousands of years before the practice became associated with the French.
    Associated Press

 
By Raphael Satter, Associated Press

LONDON -- Britons sometimes make fun of the French for feasting on frog. But now a new discovery suggests their prehistoric ancestors may have had a taste for toad.

The University of Buckingham said Wednesday that a promising excavation near Stonehenge has unearthed a host of clues about the diet of prehistoric Britons. Among them: A tiny, partially burnt leg bone, which suggests the hunter-gatherers living in what's now known as the United Kingdom snacked on amphibians.

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The charred bone was found alongside the remains of fish and aurochs -- the wild ancestor of today's cattle -- at a site called Blick Mead in the town of Amesbury, about 85 miles west of London.

Natural History Museum and University College, London, researcher Simon Parfitt said that the dig had provided experts a glimpse of a Mesolithic menu that also included fish, hazelnuts, berries, deer, and boar. He called the discovery of what appeared to be leftovers from a meal of roast toad "really intriguing."

"Being English, we don't eat frogs," he noted.

The toad finding has yet to be peer-reviewed, and one expert -- Bournemouth University archaeologist Tim Darvill -- expressed skepticism over what he called "the frog story."

Still, he and other outside experts voiced excitement about the dig where the bone was found, with Darvill calling it "the most significant find in the Stonehenge landscape for many years."

Andy Rhind-Tutt, a former mayor of Amesbury and the chairman of the Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust, said the dig was turning up thousands of flint tools and animal bones, pointing to what he said may turn out to be a major prehistoric settlement just over a mile (about 2 kilometers) from the world-famous circle of standing stones.

Parfitt said the find suggests "that there's more to the site than just Stonehenge.

"There's a much deeper history to the specialness of that place," he said.

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