Archaeologists discover new prehistoric circle near Stonehenge

Support us and go ad-free

Update: This article was updated at 3.30pm on 23 June to include a quote from Prof Vince Gaffney and to indicate the involvement of his department at the University of Bradford.

A team of archaeologists have discovered a major new prehistoric monument just a short distance away from Stonehenge.

Fieldwork and analysis have revealed evidence of 20 or more massive prehistoric shafts – more than 10 metres in diameter and five metres deep – forming a circle more than two kilometres in diameter around the Durrington Walls henge.

Coring of the shafts suggest the features are Neolithic and excavated more than 4,500 years ago – around the time Durrington Walls was built.

It is thought the shafts served as a boundary to a sacred area or precinct associated with the henge.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Experts from the University of St Andrews were joined by counterparts from institutes including Birmingham, Warwick, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre (at the University of Glasgow). The discovery was made as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, led by the University of Bradford.

Prof Vince Gaffney, 50th Anniversary Chair of the School of Archaeological and Forensic Sciences in the Faculty of Life Sciences at the University of Bradford, said it was extraordinary such a major find had been made so close to Stonehenge:

The area around Stonehenge is amongst the most studied archaeological landscapes on earth and it is remarkable that the application of new technology can still lead to the discovery of such a massive prehistoric structure which, currently, is significantly larger than any comparative prehistoric monument that we know of in Britain, at least.

When these pits were first noted it was thought they might be natural features – solution hollows in the chalk. Only when the larger picture emerged, through the geophysical surveys undertaken as part of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project, could we join the dots and see there was a pattern on a massive scale.

Dr Richard Bates, of the University of St Andrews’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said: “Yet again, the use of a multidisciplinary effort with remote sensing and careful sampling is giving us an insight to the past that shows an even more complex society than we could ever imagine.

“Clearly sophisticated practices demonstrate that the people were so in tune with natural events to an extent that we can barely conceive in the modern world we live in today.”

Tim Kinnaird, of the same school, said: “The sedimentary infills contain a rich and fascinating archive of previously unknown environmental information.

“With optically stimulated luminescence profiling and dating, we can write detailed narratives of the Stonehenge landscape for the last 4,000 years.”

Durrington
A map of the site showing where the new circle was discovered (University of St Andrews/PA)

The announcement of the discovery comes after the Summer Solstice, which took place online this year with the annual gathering cancelled due to coronavirus.

English Heritage has provided access to the event since 2000 but warned visitors not to travel to the 3,000BC Neolithic monument this year.

Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust archaeologist for the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, hailed the “astonishing discovery”.

He said: “As the place where the builders of Stonehenge lived and feasted, Durrington Walls is key to unlocking the story of the wider Stonehenge landscape, and this astonishing discovery offers us new insights into the lives and beliefs of our Neolithic ancestors.

“The Hidden Landscapes team have combined cutting-edge, archaeological fieldwork with good old-fashioned detective work to reveal this extraordinary discovery and write a whole new chapter in the story of the Stonehenge landscape.”

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us