Britons were eating frogs' legs 8,000 years before the French

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Image University of Buckingham

They’ve long been considered a French delicacy, but a new archeological dig in Wiltshire suggests frogs' legs may have been first enjoyed in Britain.

Among evidence of life in the eighth millennia BC, found at the Blick Mead site at Amesbury, researchers from the University of Buckingham discovered the burnt leg bone of a toad.

The team also found small bones of trout or salmon, and burnt Aurochs bones (the predecessor of cows).

The finds date to between 6250BC and 7600BC, making the discovery the earliest evidence of a cooked toad or frog’s leg found in the world, and around eight millennia before the French.

David Jacques, senior research fellow in archaeology at the University of Buckingham, 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 already boasts one of the biggest collections of flints and cooked animal bones in northwestern Europe. It has resulted in 12,000 finds, all from the Mesolithic era, which fell between the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic.

The team hopes to confirm Amesbury as the UK's oldest continuous settlement. The dig, which will run until 25 October, is being filmed and made into a documentary by the BBC, to be screened at a later date.

Andy Rhind-Tutt, chairman of Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust and co-ordinator of the community involvement on the dig, said 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,” he said.

“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.”