Sister monument to Stonehenge may have been found

Jul 22, 2010 By RAPHAEL G. SATTER , Associated Press Writer
This is a Sept. 15, 2004. file photo of tourists looking at The Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain in England. Scientists scouring the area around Stonehenge said Thursday July 22, 2010 they have uncovered the foundations of a second circular structure only a few hundred meters (yards) from the world famous monument. (AP Photo/Dave Caulkin, File )

(AP) -- Scientists scouring the area around Stonehenge said Thursday they have uncovered a circular structure only a few hundred meters (yards) 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 timber, a wooden version of Stonehenge.

But Tim Darvill, a professor of archaeology at Bournemouth University in southern England, expressed skepticism, saying he believed it was more likely a barrow, or prehistoric tomb.

Darvill did say that the circle was one of an expanding number of discoveries being made around Stonehenge which "really shows how much there is still to learn and how extensive the site really was."

"In its day Stonehenge was at the center of the largest ceremonial center in Europe," he said.

Although antiquarians have been poking around the area since the 18th century, excavations are now tightly restricted. So have been scanning the surrounding fields and pastures with magnetic and radar sensors pulled across the grass by tractors or quad bikes.

The new structure was found when scans identified a cluster of deep pits surrounded by a ring of smaller holes about 900 meters (a little over half a mile) from Stonehenge and within sight of its famous standing stones.

University of Birmingham archaeologist Henry Chapman said he was convinced the small holes were used to secure a circle of wooden poles which stood "possibly three or more meters (10 or more feet) high."

The timber henge - a name given to prehistoric monuments surrounded by a circular ditch - would have been constructed and modified at the same time as its more famous relative, and probably had some allied ceremonial or religious function, Chapman said in a telephone interview from Stonehenge.

Exactly what kind of ceremonies those were is unclear. The new henge joins a growing complex of tombs and mysterious Neolithic structures found across the area.

The closest equivalent is probably the nearby Woodhenge, a monument once composed of six rings of wooden posts enclosed by an earth embankment. Excavations there in the 1970s revealed the body of child whose skull had been split buried at the center of the henge - hinting at the possibility of human sacrifice.

A stone's throw from the newly found henge is a formation known as the Cursus, a 3-kilometer-long (1.8-mile-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 sure quite 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 four square kilometers (1.5 square miles) of the 16 square kilometers (six square miles) 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.

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

Explore further: Divers sure of new finds from 'ancient computer' shipwreck

More information: Stonehenge: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/daysout/properties/stonehenge/
University of Birmingham: http://www.bham.ac.uk/

4.6 /5 (9 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

'Blue Stonehenge' discovered

Oct 06, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Archaeologists have released an artist’s impression of what a second stone circle found a mile from Stonehenge might have looked like.

Probing Question: How and why was Stonehenge built?

Mar 18, 2010

From the grassy deserted plains of southern England rises a circle of standing stones, some of them up to 24 feet tall. For centuries they have towered over visitors, offering tantalizing hints about their ...

Ancient tombs discovered by Kingston University-led team

Jun 09, 2009

A prehistoric complex including two 6,000-year-old tombs representing some of the earliest monuments built in Britain has been discovered by a team led by a Kingston University archaeologist. Dr Helen Wickstead and her colleagues ...

Recommended for you

King Richard III died painfully on battlefield

1 hour ago

England's King Richard III might well have lost his kingdom for a horse. The reviled king suffered nearly a dozen injuries on the battlefield, but the fatal blows were probably only sustained after he had to abandon his horse, ...

'Hidden Treasure of Rome' project unveiled

6 hours ago

For more than a century, hundreds of thousands of historical artifacts dating back to before the founding of Rome have been stored in crates in the Capitoline Museums of Rome, where they have remained mostly untouched. Now, ...

NOAA team reveals forgotten ghost ships off Golden Gate

9 hours ago

A team of NOAA researchers today confirmed the discovery just outside San Francisco's Golden Gate strait of the 1910 shipwreck SS Selja and an unidentified early steam tugboat wreck tagged the "mystery wreck." ...

Long lost Roman fort discovered in Gernsheim

10 hours ago

In the course of an educational dig in Gernsheim in the Hessian Ried, archaeologists from Frankfurt University have discovered a long lost Roman fort: A troop unit made up out of approximately 500 soldiers ...

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

sbatsie
Jul 22, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Caliban
Jul 22, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.
Baseline
5 / 5 (2) Jul 22, 2010
Sign me up, because using all caps and poor spelling just can't be wrong.
GaryB
5 / 5 (1) Jul 22, 2010
sabasti>

THIS SHOWS CLEAR THAT RESEACHERS AND ALL OTHER SCIENCE SECTORS HAVE LAODS AND LAODS OF INTERESTING THINGS TO BE DISCOVERED


Baseline>
Sign me up, because using all caps and poor spelling just can't be wrong.


The grammar and verb tense need LOTS of work too. Try it again:

This clearly shows that researchers have many interesting things to discover.


Methinks tis a rather mundane thought upon which to heap so many errors.
scidog
5 / 5 (1) Jul 22, 2010
SB may not be from around here.but anyway,i'm sure the ground around Stonehenge is thick with yet undiscovered finds,as most places must be.
CarolinaScotsman
Jul 23, 2010
This comment has been removed by a moderator.