The Hidden Monuments Beneath Stonehenge: Archaeologists Uncover New Features

First Posted: Sep 10, 2014 08:25 AM EDT

Stonehenge is one of the most iconic archaeological monuments in the world and now, scientists have uncovered a host of previously unknown monuments surrounding this feature. The findings could reveal a bit more about this ancient grouping of stones and cold lend insight into its purpose.

The new findings are part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, which used remote sensing techniques and geophysical surveys to find previously undiscovered features beneath the landscape. The researchers mapped dozens of burial mounds in minute detail, including a long barrow, dating before Stonehenge, which revealed a massive timber building that was probably used for the ritual inhumation of the dead.

With the new survey, the researchers uncovered one particularly unusual finding: the "super henge." This particular monument is situated just a short distance away from Stonehenge and had a circumference of .93 miles. This makes it one of the largest ritual monuments in the world. In fact, the survey reveals that this had an early phase when the monument was flanked with a row of massive posts or stone, perhaps up to three meters high and up to 60 in number, some of which still survive beneath the massive banks surrounding the monument.

"The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project is unique at a global level," said Vincent Gaffney, British project leader, in a news release. "Not only has it revolutionized how archaeologists use new technologies to interpret the past, it has transformed how we understand Stonehenge and its landscape. Despite Stonehenge being the most iconic of all prehistoric monuments and occupying one of the richest archaeological landscapes in the world, much of this landscape in effect remains terra incognita."

The new research reveals that the area around Stonehenge is filled with previously unseen archaeological features. New monuments have been revealed in addition to new types of monuments. This, in turn, tells researchers a bit more about the ancient site.

The results will be features in a major new BBC Two series called Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath.

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