Archaeologists Discover Massive "Superhenge" Five Times Larger Than Stonehenge
Scientists have discovered the remains of 90 standing stones buried and preserved under a grassy bank just two miles from Stonehenge.
The monolithic arrangement once formed part of a C-shaped ridge centering on a downward slope in land that might have been used in various ancient rituals. Using ground-penetrating radar and remote-sensing technologies, the archaeologists imaged 30 intact stones measuring up to 4.5 meters tall; the other 60 were fragmented—in total, they faced single-line toward the river Avon. The coolest bit? Taken as a whole, the C-shaped escarpment is five times the diameter of Stonehenge.
“This is archaeology on steroids,” archaeologist Vince Gaffney told the Guardian yesterday. He and his team, all working for the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape project, presented their findings yesterday at the British Science Festival.
Here’s Ian Sample, writing for the Guardian:
Images of the buried stones show them lying down, but Gaffney believes they originally stood upright and were pushed over when the site was redeveloped by Neolithic builders. The recumbent stones became lost beneath a huge bank and were incorporated as a somewhat clumsy linear southern border to the otherwise circular “superhenge” known as Durrington Walls. “This is a new element of how the Stonehenge landscape was transformed.”
A mile in circumference, Durrington Walls is one of the largest known henge monuments. It is surrounded by a ditch and a 40m-wide, 1m-tall outer bank. The henge surrounds smaller enclosures and timber circles from a later settlement.
See what the huge standing stones would have looked like 4,500 years ago.
About a year ago, we wrote that Gaffney’s team had painted Stonehenge as the mere centerpiece of a highly complex system that, long ago, made for a kaleidoscopic ceremonial experience. Now, the discovery at Durrington Walls—around 4,500 years old—is forcing archaeologists to reevaluate their entire understanding of the area. The stones placed at the Durrington Walls earthworks site could be older than Stonehenge itself, and could help uncover how ancient peoples interacted with the land.
Watch "Secrets of Stonehenge" streaming online.
Photo credit: © LBI ArchPro, Juan Torrejón Valdelomar, Joachim Brandtner