Researchers have discovered what they say is ‘Stonehenge on steroids’ less than three kilometers away from Stonehenge – a finding that greatly affects our understanding of Stonehenge and its landscape setting.
The discovery of the new stone monument was made using state of the art remote sensing and other techniques, which alleviate the need for digging up history sites. Located about 1.8 miles (3km) from Stonehenge, on the edge of the Durrington Walls “henge”, or bank, the monuments comprises of at least 90 stones, some nearly 15ft tall.
Researchers say the monument could very well be used as some sort of arena on Salisbury Plain, Wilts. It is believed that the stones would have been used for religious rituals over 4,500 years ago.
The discovery was made as part of the work carried out under Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project – an international collaboration between Birmingham and Bradford universities and Austria’s Ludwig Boltzmann Institute. Thanks to the latest equipment that scientist have at their disposal, archaeologists were able to discover the new monument and shed greater insight into the past without having to dig up the whole place.
Professor Vince Gaffney, from the University of Bradford, said that through the discovery “We’re looking at one of the largest stone monuments in Europe and it has been under our noses for something like 4,000 years. It’s truly remarkable.”
Pegging the finding as extraordinary, Gaffney suggests that there isn’t anything else in the world that is like the Superhenge.
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 and that the context of the preservation of these stones is exceptional and the configuration unique to British archaeology.
Nick Snashall, a 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.
He added that the latest results have produced evidence of what lies beneath the ancient earthworks at Durrington Walls.
“The presence of what appear to be stones, surrounding the site of one of the largest Neolithic settlements in Europe adds a whole new chapter to the Stonehenge story,” said Snashall.
The findings were revealed on the first day of the British Science Association’s annual festival of science. The festival is hosted this year by the University of Bradford.