Archeologists worry planned tunnel could ruin chance to understand history before Stonehenge

December 22, 2014 by Bob Yirka, Phys.org report
Stonehenge. Image: Wikipedia.

Many archeologists in Britain are decrying plans by the government to build a tunnel to relieve traffic congestion near Stonehenge—a world heritage site, as doing so would like damage Blick Mead, a Mesolithic encampment found nearby just this past October.

Among the most vocal is David Jaques of the University of Buckingham and leader of the team that discovered the early encampment site—he has told the press that it's possible that yet to be discovered at the site could offer clues regarding the history of the area prior to the construction of Stonehenge, possibly offering new clues about the people involved in building the famous structure and their reasons for putting together such a massive and enduring structure. He has suggested that the government scrap plans for a , the construction of which could cause damage to artifacts at Blick Mead, which is just 2.4km from Stonehenge.

Artifacts found thus far include charcoal dated to around 4000 BC and evidence of "feasting" (burnt flint, other tools and bones of an ancient cow known as aurochs) by people sitting around a fire. Jaques and other archeologists working the site believe the encampment represents a link between early hunter-gatherers that returned to Great Britain after the last Ice Age, and on up into the Neolithic—representing the time before and after Stonehenge was constructed. Jugues believes the early people would have been attracted to the site by the natural spring that flowed through and claims that building the tunnel would wreck the site, preventing proper study of other artifacts that have not yet been found, some of which might include evidence of dwellings. He and has team have also noted that a rare type of algae has been found at the site which resulted in color changing stones, the only examples ever found in Britain.

Officials with the country's Department of Transportation in response to complaints by the archeologists promised to consult with "interested parties" before construction on the tunnel would commence. The government has said the tunnel would relieve congestion and improve the setting for Stonehenge, allowing for better access by visitors. Jaques maintains that plans for construction should be stopped because the dig could ultimately offer evidence to help answer questions about Stonehenge that have been asked for hundreds, if not thousands of years—what is the real story of Stonehenge's past?

Explore further: New evidence suggests site near Stonehenge was occupied far earlier than thought

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John1948
5 / 5 (3) Dec 22, 2014
I'm not normally a Philistine but the road planners have spent decades (I know a guy who worked on it for 7 years) trying to satisfy these people who keep crying "do nothing". The plan addresses two issues - the current road wrecks the visitor experience and is the missing link in a major regional highway project to a not very prosperous area. The archaeologists should take the generous funding on offer, do their thing and get out of the way.
dramamoose
not rated yet Dec 23, 2014
I've never understood why they can't uncover whatever there is to uncover, then get out of the way? This isn't Native American stuff in the US, we aren't talking about a group saying their culture finds this land important. Just dig the stuff up, take the government money to do so, and get out of the way.
cjn
5 / 5 (1) Dec 23, 2014
Having just spent time quite nearby for work, the infrastructure around Stonehenge is awful, and the subject of continual complaint by the people who live in and around the area. Further, the countryside there isn't some pristine wilderness; it is cultivated farmland which has been tilled for hundreds or thousands of years. If building a tunnel addresses the needs of the locals in alleviating some of the congestion while only "potentially" impacting sites that are unknown to exist, then I think you go for it. The money that is generated through tourism (facilitated by this tunnel) to the Stonehenge funds the preservation of all English heritage sites -this is the balance between the constraints of reality and the idealism of academia.

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