Stonehenge the mysterious prehistoric archaeological monument started 5,000 years ago is located on a plain north of the modern day city of Salisbury, England.
Archaeologists have uncovered the monument’s huge stone sibling just two miles to the north-east, using ground-penetrating radar, high-resolution magnetometers, essentially advanced metal detectors and other techniques by peering deep into the soil. The discovery dating back 6,000 years, contains evidence of 17 previously unknown wooden or stone structures.
The c-shaped enclosure- 330 metres wide and over 400 metres long comprising of more than 60 stones might once have stood at the site and formed what scientists have termed as Durrington Walls’ “super henge”.
The structure seems to be the southern arm part of a c-shaped ritual ‘enclosure’, whose remaining part was completed by an artificially scarped natural elevation in the ground. The proof proposes that it was the site of complex rituals involving the dead, including the defleshing process.
The discovery is the constituent of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, which utilises remote sensing techniques and geophysical surveys to discover previously undiscovered features underneath the landscape. The Project, led by the University of Birmingham in conjunction with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology, is the largest project of its kind. The four-year study, covered an area of 12 square kilometres and penetrated to a depth of three metres.
“Up till now, we had absolutely no idea that the stones were there,” said the co-director of the investigation Professor Vince Gaffney of Birmingham University.
“Stonehenge is the most iconic archaeological monument, possibly along with the pyramids, on the planet.
“However, the idea of what Stonehenge is for people is rather strange, especially if you walk around it. It sits there in splendid isolation.
“For the past four years we’ve been looking at this amazing monument to see what was around it, what was actually within its landscape.
“Most of the area around Stonehenge isterra incognita. It has never been explored and everything we think about Stonehenge is on the basis of what we don’t know about it.
“This project has revealed that the area around Stonehenge is teeming with previously unseen archaeology and that the application of new technology can transform how archaeologists and the wider public understand one of the best-studied landscapes on Earth.
“New monuments have been revealed, as well as new types of monument that have previously never been seen by archaeologists. All of this information has been placed within a single digital map, which will guide how Stonehenge and its landscape are studied in the future.
“T his is going to change how we view Stonehenge. It is not yet another find from Stonehenge, it’s a fundamental step forward in the way we understand it.”
The geophysical substantiation suggests the dimensions of each buried stone to be roughly three metres long and 1.5 metres wide and is positioned horizontally, not vertically, in its earthen matrix, though they are originally said to be standing vertically similar to other standing stones in Britain.
Professor Wolfgang Neubauer, director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in Austria, says the new maps make it possible at last to reconstruct the development of Stonehenge over its 11,000-year history.
‘”No landscape deserves to benefit from a study at this level of detail more than Stonehenge. The terabytes of digital survey data collected, processed and visualised by LBI ArchPro provide the base for the precise mapping of the monuments and archaeological features buried in the subsurface or still visible in the landscape surrounding Stonehenge. After centuries of research, the analysis of all mapped features makes it possible, for the first time, to reconstruct the development of Stonehenge and its landscape through time,” he added.
The new discoveries included massive prehistoric pits, some of which appear to form astronomical alignments, and also new details on hundreds of burial mounds, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman settlement. The most salient monuments unveiled in the survey was a 33 metre-long burial mound that contains a massive wooden building whose timber foundations – and a giant upright blocking its entrance – were found in the soil.
“Despite Stonehenge being the most iconic of all prehistoric monuments and occupying one of the richest archaeological landscapes in the world, much of this landscape in effect remains terra incognita,” Gaffney said.
“The project has revealed that the area around Stonehenge is teeming with previously unseen archaeology and that the application of new technology can transform how archaeologists and the wider public understand one of the best-studied landscapes on Earth,” he added.
Gaffney appears in a BBC Two show titled Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath which starts tommorrow at 8pm.