Sister monument to Stonehenge may have been found

2010-07-23 08:52

Scientists scouring the area around Stonehenge say they have

uncovered a circular structure only a few hundred metres from the world famous

monument.

There’s some debate about what exactly has been found.

The survey

team which uncovered the structure said it could be the foundation for a circle

of freestanding pieces of timber, a wooden version of Stonehenge.

But Tim Darvill, a professor of archaeology at Bournemouth

University in southern England, expressed scepticism yesterday, saying he

believed it was more likely a barrow, or prehistoric tomb.

Darvill said the discovery “really shows how much there is still to

learn and how extensive the site really was.”

He said: “In its day Stonehenge was one of the largest ceremonial

centres in Europe.”

The Stonehenge that is visible today is thought to have been

completed about 3 500 years ago, although the first earthwork henge on the site

was probably built more than 5?000 years ago.

A stone’s throw from the newly found henge is a formation known as

the Cursus, a 3km long earthwork whose purpose remains unknown.

Also nearby is a puzzling chunk of land known as the Northern Kite

Enclosure; Bronze Age farmers seem to have avoided cultivating crops there,

although no one is quite sure why.

The whole area around Stonehenge is dotted with prehistoric

cemeteries – some of which predate the monument itself – and new discoveries are

made occasionally.

Last year, researchers said they had found a small circle of stones

on the banks of the nearby River Avon.

Experts speculated the stone circle –

dubbed Bluehenge because it was built with bluestones – may have served as the

starting point of a processional walk that began at the river and ended at

Stonehenge.

Chapman’s team is still in the early stages of its work, having

surveyed only about 4km² of the 16km² it eventually plans to map.

The survey is being led by the University of Birmingham and the

Austria-based Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and

Virtual Archaeology, with support from other institutions and researchers from

Germany, Norway and Sweden.

Henges of various descriptions exist throughout Britain – from the

Standing Stones o’ Stenness on the northern island of Orkney to the Maumbury

Rings in southern England county of Dorset.

Stonehenge, a World Heritage Site, remains the best-known.


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