MOSCOW, September 10 (RIA Novosti) - A massive, technologically advanced geophysical survey, which is said to be the largest and most advanced ever conducted, has revealed a vast series of new archeological finds around the iconic prehistoric monument Stonehenge. The objects date back 6,000 years and some are older than the famous landmark itself.
Commenting on the remarkable find, project leader Professor Vincent Gaffney of the University of Birmingham said: “In the past we had this idea that Stonehenge was standing in splendid isolation, but it wasn’t...it’s absolutely huge.”
Speaking at a press conference at the British Science Festival in Birmingham on Tuesday, Gaffney said that “the project has revealed that the area around Stonehenge is teeming with previously unseen archeology.” He noted that “it is not yet another find from Stonehenge, it’s a fundamental step forward in the way we understand it.”
Archeologists spent over four years on the project, using magnetometers, ground-penetrating radar systems, electromagnetic sensors, and ground and air 3D laser scanning to map an area covering 12 kilometers at a depth of three meters. Their data has been integrated into a single digital map in the information rich GIS (Geographic Information System) format, giving scientists an incredible high resolution look at the archeological history of the area surrounding Stonehenge. The state-of-the-
art technology used in the work will be sure to change the way “archeologists and the wider public understand [the site],” Gaffney noted.
The new finds include a huge complex of 17 previously unknown monuments, shrines and chapels, made mostly of wood and stone, along with dozens of burial mounds and prehistoric pits, some arranged to form astronomical alignments. Researchers also found remnants of up to 60 stone pillars forming a 1.5 km-wide c-shaped ‘superhenge,’ over twelve times the size of Stonehenge itself.
Additionally, the survey showed signs of a large, 33 meter-long barrow containing the remnants of a large entombment structure, built 300-500 years before Stonehenge, which archeologists say may have been used for pagan burial rituals.
What makes the find all the more interesting, according to Dr. Gaffney, is “that they have a spatial relationship with Stonehenge,” and are not simply “another set of strange archeological monuments.”
The find may confirm the real origins and purpose of Stonehenge, which has led to centuries of speculation. In his press conference, Gaffney said that Stonehenge “is clearly a very large ritualistic structure...attracting people from large parts of the country,” around which “people were creating their own shrines and temples.”
The survey also shows the historical evolution of the site over the centuries; the monuments have been changed, rearranged, dismantled and rebuilt over time. Gaffney explained this process of evolution, noting that the monuments had “developed over many hundreds of years, so the people who started them were not the people who finished them.” An in-depth analysis of the findings will allow archeologists to create a new account of the Stonehenge site, its purpose, history and evolution over time.
The project was the result of a partnership between the University of Birmingham and the Ludwig Boltzmann Archeological Institute in Vienna, as well as specialists from the Universities of Bradford, St. Andrews, and Nottingham in Britain, and the University of Ghent in Belgium.