Published On: Mon, Sep 7th, 2015

Stonehenge researchers found largest prehistoric site

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Archaeologists have discovered the remains of up to 90 huge standing stones formed part of a C-shaped Neolithic arena only two miles from Stonehenge, and is thought to have been a ritual site.

The 4, 500-year-old stones, some measuring 15ft, were discovered under 3ft of earth using ground-penetrating radar at Durrington Walls “superhenge”.

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes team has been creating an underground map of the area in a five-year project.

The stones are believed to have been deliberately toppled over the south-eastern edge of the bank of the circular enclosure before being incorporated into it.

Durrington Walls is one of the largest known henge monuments measuring 500m in diameter measuring more than 1.5 kilometres in circumference.

Lead researcher Vince Gaffney, of the University of Bradford, said: “We don’t think there’s anything quite like this anywhere else in the world.

“This is completely new and the scale is extraordinary.”

 

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Previous, intensive study of the area around Stonehenge had led archaeologists to believe that only Stonehenge and a smaller henge at the end of the Stonehenge Avenue possessed significant stone structures.

The latest surveys now provide evidence that Stonehenge’s largest neighbour, Durrington Walls, had an earlier phase which included a large row of standing stones probably of local origin.

This new discovery has significant implications for our understanding of Stonehenge and its landscape setting.

The earthwork enclosure at Durrington Walls was built about a century after the Stonehenge sarsen circle (in the 27th century BC), but the new stone row could well be contemporary with or earlier than this.

Not only does this new evidence demonstrate an early phase of monumental architecture at one of the greatest ceremonial sites in prehistoric Europe, it also raises significant questions about the landscape the builders of Stonehenge inhabited and how they changed this with new monument-building during the 3rd millennium BC.

 

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“Our high resolution ground penetrating radar data has revealed an amazing row of up to 90 standing stones a number of which have survived after being pushed over and a massive bank placed over the stones.

“This discovery of a major new stone monument, which has been preserved to a remarkable extent, has significant implications for our understanding of Stonehenge and its landscape setting. Not only does this new evidence demonstrate a completely unexpected phase of monumental architecture at one of the greatest ceremonial sites in prehistoric Europe, the new stone row could well be contemporary with the famous Stonehenge sarsen circle or even earlier, ” explains Professor Gaffney.

 

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“The extraordinary scale, detail and novelty of the evidence produced by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, which the new discoveries at Durrington Walls exemplify, is changing fundamentally our understanding of Stonehenge and the world around it. Everything written previously about the Stonehenge landscape and the ancient monuments within it will need to be re-written, ” says Paul Garwood, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Birmingham, and the principal prehistorian on the project.

Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust Archaeologist for the Avebury and Stonehenge World Heritage Site, said: “The Stonehenge landscape has been studied by antiquaries and archaeologists for centuries. But the work of the Hidden Landscapes team is revealing previously unsuspected twists in its age-old tale. ”

 

 

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