New henge detected near Stonehenge

Submitted by Sammy Smith (sammy@thesga.org)

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In summer 2010 archaeologists began the field research for a three-year study of the lands around Stonehenge, on the Salisbury plain west-southwest of London. Almost immediately they made a game-changing find.

Stonehenge has been famous for generations. There are large standing stones, some huge lintel stones, and lots of mystery.

On the Google Maps image above, the right arrow points to Stonehenge, and the left arrow points to the location of the new find, which is visible as a faint circle, due to subsurface remains.

Despite all the work in the immediate vicinity of the stones, there’s never been a systematic survey of the area surrounding the stones. Other notable sites like Woodhenge and the Avebury circle (two miles and twenty miles, respectively from Stonehenge) have been known for years. However, most of the intevening space has never been systematically examined.

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The English Heritage, managers of Stonehenge, clearly visible on the satellite photo from Google Maps above, note on their website:

In the landscape immediately around Stonehenge there are visible remains of many different types of monuments, and many more have been detected. Neolithic monuments include long barrows, and the long rectangular earthwork to the north, the Cursus (so called because it was once thought to resemble a chariot racecourse): together with the henge monuments at Woodhenge and Durrington Walls, contemporary with the middle phases at Stonehenge. The most numerous monuments are the remains of many Bronze Age round barrows, which were built after Stonehenge Stone Circle was complete.

But, in 2010, archaeologists began the research that would better set the famous Stonehenge in its archaeo-geographical context. Just two weeks into that research, archaeologists discovered the subsurface remains of a Late Neolithic construction in a plowed field owned by the National Trust.

Click here to go to the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Archaeology and Antiquity press release on the find. The page includes a video of Professor Vince Gaffney, project director, discussing the find. The IAA’s press release notes:

The new “henge-like” Late Neolithic monument is believed to be contemporaneous to Stonehenge and appears to be on the same orientation as the World Heritage Site monument. It comprises a segmented ditch with opposed north-east/south-west entrances that are associated with internal pits that are up to one metre in diameter and could have held a free-standing, timber structure.

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The arrow points to the feature that researchers have identified as the subterranean remains of another henge. Here’s the IAA artist’s reconstruction, below.

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What do you think of the fact that Stonehenge is such an important, long-recognized and long-researched archaeological site, yet, a large, contemporaneous nearby construction like another henge has only just been identified? And that a shadow of that find is visible to anyone with a reasonably speedy internet connection via free, publicly available satellite photographs? Any other observations or comments?

Where to find it