New prehistoric monument found near Stonehenge

New prehistoric monument found near Stonehenge

Published by Henrietta Creasey at 7:18am 22nd June 2020. (Updated at 10:15am 22nd June 2020)

4 minute read

Archaeologists have discovered a ring of prehistoric shafts created thousands of years ago.

The series of 20 or more huge shafts form a circle more than 2 kilometres in diameter.

The ring surrounds Durrington Walls which lies 2 miles from Stonehenge.

The shafts are around 10 metres in diameter each and five metres deep, tests suggest they are Neolithic and excavated more than 4,500 years ago, around the time Durrington Walls was built.

Prehistoric circle Durrington Walls

Experts think the shafts served as a boundary to a sacred area or precinct associated with the henge.

The team of experts which carried out the research were lead by the University of Bradford.

Prof Vince Gaffney from there said it was extraordinary such a major find had been made so close to Stonehenge.

“The area around Stonehenge is amongst 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.

“When these pits were first noted it was thought they might be natural features - solution hollows in the chalk. Only when the larger picture emerged, through the geophysical surveys undertaken as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project, could we join the dots and see there was a pattern on a massive scale.”

Prehistoric Circle Durrington

The Neolithic period, which is associated with the first farmers in Britain, is characterised by the development of ornate, and occasionally very large, ritual structures and enclosures, including the great stone circle at Stonehenge.

The team of archaeologists say 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. 

Aside from the scale of the structure, the circuit of shafts has other surprising characteristics. The boundary appears to have been deliberately laid out to include an earlier prehistoric monument within the boundary – the Larkhill Causewayed Enclosure.

This site was built more than 1,500 years before the henge at Durrington. This distance between the henge and earlier enclosure, more than 800 metres, seems to guide the placement of shafts around Durrington. 

NEW CHAPTER:

Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, hailed the "astonishing discovery".

"As the place where the builders of Stonehenge lived and feasted Durrington Walls is key to unlocking the story of the wider Stonehenge landscape, and this astonishing discovery offers us new insights into the lives and beliefs of our Neolithic ancestors.

"The Hidden Landscapes team have combined cutting-edge, archaeological fieldwork with good old-fashioned detective work to reveal this extraordinary discovery and write a whole new chapter in the story of the Stonehenge landscape"

Prehistoric circle Durrington

Research on the pits at Durrington was undertaken by a consortium of archaeologists led by the University of Bradford as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project, and with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology, the Universities of Birmingham, St Andrews, Warwick, the University of Wales Trinity Saint Davids, and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (University of Glasgow).

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