Neolithic Henge Discovered at Stonehenge

New Henge Discovered at Stonehenge - Magnetometer ImagingA second henge has been discovered near Stonehenge, less than one kilometre away from the iconic stone circle. A cutting edge archaeological survey (view images), part of the ‘Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project‘ has uncovered the henge-like monument.

Because of the circular monument’s shape, the archaeologists believe the henge to be contemporary to Stonehenge. The henge comprises of a segmented ditch, surrounded by a ring of pits up to one metre in diameter. It is possible the pits held a free-standing timber structure and inside the circle is a burial mound, which was added later.

With two entrances on the north-east and south-west sides, the Late Neolithic monument appears to be on the same orientation as Stonehenge.

Project leader Vince Gaffney hailed the find as one of the most significant yet for those researching the UKs most important prehistoric structure. This finding is remarkable, Professor Gaffney said. This discovery is completely new and extremely important in how we understand Stonehenge and its landscape.

Its location, a short distance from Stonehenge, and the fact that the two monuments were inter-visible, raises exciting new questions about the complex sacred landscape that existed around Stonehenge when the sarsen and bluestone monument was constructed, commented Paul Garwood, prehistorian at the Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity at the University of Birmingham.

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The sub-surface discovery was made using a magnetometer. The devicemeasures and maps magnetic fields in the soil. Different layers or deposits of earth and rock each have theirown magnetic properties. If soilhas been moved – in this case byearthwork constructionand ditch infill -thisis visible from the variations in soil magnetism against the general background of the earth’s magnetic field.

The next step for the international team is mapping the monument using an array of technologies that will allow them to view this new discovery, and the landscape around it, in three dimensions.

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project aims to in three years time map 14 square kilometres of the Stonehenge Landscape using the latest geophysical imaging techniques, ‘virtually excavating’ Salisbury Plain. They’ll then recreate visually the iconic prehistoric monument and its surroundings as it was in the third millennium BC. The project is supported by the National Trust and facilitated by English Heritage.

“This new monument is part of a growing body of evidence which shows how important the summer and winter solstices were to the ancient peoples who built Stonehenge, commented Dr Amanda Chadburn, Stonehenge archaeologist at English Heritage.

She continues, the discovery is all the more remarkable given how much research there has been in the vicinity of Stonehenge, and emphasises the importance of continuing research within and around the World Heritage Site.

Nearby, English Heritage archaeologists are excavating Marden Henge. The henge, close to the source of the River Avon, is at least ten times bigger than Stonehenge, and contained a huge mound, similar to nearby Silbury Hill, which collapsed in 1806.

Wiltshire is one of the world’s richest Neolithic regions, and is littered with mysterious monuments such as Woodhenge, West Kennet Long Barrow, Bluestonehenge (discovered last year by the Stonehenge Riverside Project) and the Durrington Walls, an ancient settlement you can explore at Heritage Key’s Stonehenge Virtual.