Early Roman texts, however, not only provide evidence that some ancients regularly ate rodents, but that these little animals were also considered to be a delicacy. The edible dormouse, for example, starred as a key ingredient of a gourmet dish.
RELATED: Rodents Show Empathy for Loved Ones in Pain
Dormice, Romaniuk explained, "were a traditional dish in rather wealthy Roman houses, or those aspiring to become one. Usually each family had big ceramic vessels with interiors adapted for edible dormice to nest in, and such vessels were usually displayed before the official meal with the representatives of other influential Roman families."
Rome is a long way from Orkney, though. The researchers suspect that voles were intentionally transported to the Scottish archipelago as a food resource, since the animals are not native to mainland Britain.
It's known that people at Skara Brae fished and herded, hunted and gathered plants. The rodents could have been brought in when the site was first settled, or perhaps shipped in later to supplement the existing diet of the individuals who were known as the Grooved Ware People because of the grooved pottery that they made.
If the researchers' theories hold true, the discovery could help to explain why vole remains were previously found in a chambered burial mound at the Orkney island called Holm of Papa Westray and at other nearby burial and settlement sites. The ancients were perhaps ritualistically attempting to send off the deceased with a bite to eat.
WATCH: Why Does Hot Food Taste Better Than Cold Food?