(TMU) – An international archaeological consortium called the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project says it has unearthed a stunning constellation of monuments very close to Stonehenge. While their purpose is unclear, scientists say the discovery could help to unlock new clues about the sophisticated and complex nature of prehistoric societies.
Led by The University of Bradford and several other institutions, researchers used geophysical surveys and remote sensing technology to discover a 2-kilometer circular pattern of “astonishing” shafts in Durrington Walls. Carbon-dating places the shafts at 2500 B.C. Each one measures around 10 meters (33 feet) and is buried 5 meters (16 feet) below the ground.
'Astonishing discovery' near Stonehenge offers new insight into Neolithic ancestors. Research on the pits at Durrington was undertaken by a consortium of archaeologists as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project. #DurringtonPits @gaffney_v https://t.co/nogxoBnrIF pic.twitter.com/eR6yq7pLXY
— University of Bradford (@UniofBradford) June 22, 2020
Professor Vincent Gaffney of the University of Bradford explains why the discovery is an important one:
“The area around Stonehenge is among the most studied archaeological landscapes on Earth and it is remarkable that the application of new technology can still lead to the discovery of such a massive prehistoric structure which, currently, is significantly larger than any comparative prehistoric monument that we know of in Britain, at least.”
Scientists discovered the circle, or ring of monuments, in the “empty spaces” of the UNESCO World Heritage Site for Stonehenge, one of the most popular prehistoric monuments in the world. It’s also one of the most mysterious, as archeologists and historians have struggled to determine why the legendary stones were positioned according to the solstices and the sun’s movements in the sky.
The new discovery of shafts–from what scientists believe was probably the Neolithic era–presents another vexing mystery.
“Clearly sophisticated practices demonstrate that the people were so in tune with natural events to an extent that we can barely conceive in the modern world we live in today,” said Richard Bates, from the University of St. Andrews’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
Some researchers believe there could be a cosmological link between the newly discovered circle of monuments and Stonehenge. The circle may have served as a sacred gateway or boundary connected to Stonehenge.
In a press release, the university stated:
“….no comparative prehistoric structure in the UK encloses such a large area as the circle of shafts at Durrington, and the structure is currently unique….The presence of such massive features, and perhaps an internal post line, guided people towards the religious sites within the circle or may have warned those who were not permitted to cross the boundary marked by the shafts.”
Bates adds the new site “is giving us an insight to the past that shows an even more complex society than we could ever imagine.”
The Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project says the discovery will bolster their work to create a detailed archaeological map of the ‘invisible’ landscape of the area. Eventually, they plan to create a digital model of all monuments contained within a “seamless map of sub-surface and surface archaeological features and structures.”