Stonehenge has mystified archaeologists and visitors for centuries. Now another mystical prehistoric wonder, that has been hidden for so long, has been discovered just 2 miles away.
David Jacques, from the University of Buckingham, described the find as “absolutely brilliant “and a “game changer.”
Archaeologists have discovered an “extraordinary” line of giant stones that dates back more than 4,500 years. The 90 or more stones, lying 3 ft underground, have only just been discovered by sophisticated radar equipment. The buried monoliths are each up to 15 ft tall. Instead of being arranged in a circle as they are at Stonehenge, it is thought they once formed a long standing line.
“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,” said Professor Vince Gaffney, from the University of Bradford, one of the archaeologists leading the research. “It’s truly remarkable. We don’t think there’s anything quite like this anywhere else in the world. This is completely new and the scale is extraordinary. We presume it to be a ritual arena of some sort. These things are theatrical… designed to impress.”
The stones were placed along the south-eastern edge of what later became the Durrington Walls “superhenge” – a circular settlement ringed by a ditch and bank that, at a third of a mile across, is the largest earthwork of its kind in the UK.
Who toppled them and whether the arena was a rival attraction to Stonehenge or part of the same complex of sacred sites is unknown. They may even have been pushed over to protect their sacred significance, Professor Gaffney said. The stones, which have not yet been excavated, are thought to be “sarsens” – giant sandstone blocks like those used at Stonehenge. The discovery was unveiled at the British Science Festival at the University of Bradford.
“What we are starting to see is the largest surviving stone monument, preserved underneath a bank, that has ever been discovered in Britain and possibly in Europe,” said Vince Gaffney, an archaeologist at Bradford University who leads the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape project. “This is archaeology on steroids.”