‘Astonishing discovery’ at Stonehenge

Archaeologists have found a major prehistoric monument under the earth near Stonehenge.

The discovery could shed new light on the origins of the mystical stone circle in southwestern England.

Experts from a group of British universities found at least 20 huge underground shafts.

Around 10m across and 5m deep, the shafts form a circle more than 2km in diameter.

 

Archaeologists were gobsmacked to find a large circle underground around Stonehenge. Picture: Escape
Archaeologists were gobsmacked to find a large circle underground around Stonehenge. Picture: Escape

 

Researchers said the shafts appear to have been dug around 4500 years ago, and could mark the boundary of a sacred area or precinct around a circular monument known as the Durrington Walls henge.

The purpose of the shafts is not yet understood.

Archaeologist Nick Snashall of the UK National Trust said the "astonishing discovery" provided new insights into the lives and beliefs of our Neolithic ancestors.

He said Durrington Walls was the place where the builders of Stonehenge lived and feasted.

The team found the shafts using remote sensing and sampling.

The archaeologists also found discarded animal bones and shells which enabled them to date the site.

Richard Bates of the University of St Andrews School of Earth and Environmental Sciences said the finding provided "an insight to the past that shows an even more complex society than we could ever imagine".

The fact that Stonehenge, one of the most studied areas in the world, could yield such a major new discovery was described as "remarkable" by University of Bradford archaeologist Vince Gaffney.

"When these pits were first noted it was thought they might be natural features - solution hollows in the chalk," he said.

But geophysical surveys allowed scientists to "join the dots and see there was a pattern on a massive scale".

When archaeologists realised the shafts made a rough circle they were amazed due to the mathematical precision required.

Britain is dotted with stone circles built thousands of years ago for reasons that remain unknown.

Stonehenge, in Wiltshire, a huge monument built between 3000BC and 1600BC, is one of Britain's most popular tourist attractions. It's also a spiritual home for thousands of druids and mystics who visit at the summer and winter solstices.

Originally published as 'Astonishing discovery' at Stonehenge



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