A newly-discovered, massive megalithic stone structure hidden beneath the British soil means “everything written previously about the Stonehenge landscape and the ancient monuments within it will need to be re-written,” according to Paul Garwood, lead historian with the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project.
Garwood and his team of archaeologists announced their discovery just yesterday at the British Science Festival. Unlike a traditional archaeological dig, the researchers used cutting-edge imaging and remote sensing technology instead of shovels and pickaxes to “unearth” the neolithic site beneath the bank of the Durrington Walls ‘super-henge’ (less than two miles from the world-famous Stonehenge).
Durrington Walls is one of the largest known henge monuments measuring more than 1,600 feet in diameter and thought to have been built around 4,500 years ago. The discovery of 90 stones and stone fragments buried three feet below the Durrington Walls super-henge may reshape our understanding of the history of the area.
“The extraordinary scale, detail and novelty of the evidence produced by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, which the new discoveries at Durrington Walls exemplify, is changing fundamentally our understanding of Stonehenge and the world around it,” Garwood said.
So what was this giant stone structure built for? The stones appear to form a C-shape that the researchers think may have been used as a defining edge for some sort of massive outdoor arena that ancient civilizations would’ve used for ritualistic purposes.
The team of archaeologists believe their discovery could end up predating the Stonehenge monument, which would allow for the possibility that humans were building megalithic stone structures earlier than once thought. From the University of Birmingham press release announcing the discovery:
Previous, intensive study of the area around Stonehenge had led archaeologists to believe that only Stonehenge and a smaller henge at the end of the Stonehenge Avenue possessed significant stone structures. The latest surveys now provide evidence that Stonehenge’s largest neighbour, Durrington Walls, had an earlier phase which included a large row of standing stones probably of local origin and that the context of the preservation of these stones is exceptional and the configuration unique to British archaeology.
At five times the size of Stonehenge, this newly discovered ancient stone structure beneath Durrington Walls is shaping up to be an historical find. “What we are starting to see is the largest surviving stone monument… that has ever been discovered in Britain and possibly in Europe,” said Vince Gaffney, an archaeologist at Bradford University who leads the research project. “This is archaeology on steroids.”