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article image'Second Stonehenge' found near original site

By Stephen Morgan     Sep 12, 2015 in Science
The mysteries of Stonehenge continue to deepen with the discovery of a new "super-henge", situated not far from the original stone circle. The massive monument is thought to be some 4,000 years old.
Archaeologists have recently discovered a semi-circular wall, one mile long (1.6km), made up of approximately 100 giant stones and possibly up to 200, when it was originally constructed. In comparison, Stonehenge itself had about 90 standing stones.
The stones are 15ft high (4.5m) and are situated only about 2 miles (3.2 km) from Stonehenge.
Using new radar methods to scan the area, archaeologists discovered the stones lying flat only 3ft (1m) under the ground in a horseshoe arrangement.
Semi-circle impression of how  superhenge  looked
Semi-circle impression of how "superhenge" looked
Ludwig Boltzmann Insitute
It appears that they were purposely turned over by Stone Age builders as part of the many reworkings of the Stonehenge site, which sprawls some 4sq miles (6.5km) of Salisbury Plain in England. The toppling of the stones may also have been a result of changed religious beliefs in solar cult worship. Experts think the new stones were part of an arena used for rituals and meant to impress Neolithic visitors.
The new stones are part of the so-called Durrington Walls – constructed in 2,500 BC, which were the outer walls of a village also ringed by a giant ditch and bank some 40m-wide (60km). Timber and housing found inside the perimeter make it possibly the largest settlement in Europe at that time.
Another site called Blick Mead – dated to 4,000 BC and also not far from Stonehenge – was a massive encampment, where archaeologists have found flints and tools used to skin and slice meat from the remains of extinct, giant cattle, called aurochs.
Speaking of the new stone construction, the Mail Online quotes Professor Vince Gaffney, from the University of Bradford, who said;
"We're looking at one of the largest stone monuments in Europe and it has been under our noses for something like 4,000 years."
"It's truly remarkable. We don't think there's anything quite like this anywhere else in the world. This is completely new and the scale is extraordinary."
A picture is emerging of how all the sites were linked together in some sort of massive complex, not all of which, archaeologists believe has yet been uncovered.
The Independent says that;
"The entire horseshoe arrangement faced virtually due east and appears to have been aligned with a specific and very prominent natural landmark (now known as Beacon Hill) some three miles away. Significantly, this is the same hill that the western part of the 1.9 mile long pre-Stonehenge era sacred enclosure – the so-called ‘Stonehenge Cursus’ (potentially a place for Neolithic religious processions) – is also aligned with."
Map of constructions and settlements around Stonehenge
Map of constructions and settlements around Stonehenge
Stonehenge Hidden landscape Project
In a BBC article on the new find, David Jacques, from the University of Buckingham, who is the Blick Mead project manager said ;
"It's a big concern to all of us, especially as we are at the tip of the iceberg with this particular discovery."
"The hidden treasure trove of the Stonehenge landscape just begs the question about why are all these incredible structures here?"
"All the monuments have a relationship with each other," he continued, "So rather than just 'atomising' them and looking at them as individual entities there are deliberate lines of sight or knowledge that things are just over the hill.
"When you put that together in the late Neolithic - there's something vibrant, exciting and dynamic [about the find]."
Stonehenge and the encircling settlements and structures are an incredible feat of Neolithic engineering.
According to the Stonehenge information site, many of the giant stones were transported 240 miles (386km).
"Some 82 bluestones from the Preseli mountains, in south-west Wales were transported to the site. It is thought these stones, some weighing 4 tonnes each were dragged on rollers and sledges to the headwaters on Milford Haven and then loaded onto rafts. They were carried by water along the south coast of Wales and up the rivers Avon and Frome, before being dragged overland again to near Warminster in Wiltshire. The final stage of the journey was mainly by water, down the river Wylye to Salisbury, then the Salisbury Avon to west Amesbury."
The more local Sarcen stones, like those from the new find, weighed 50 tonnes and could not have been transported by water. The site says;
"The stones could only have been moved using sledges and ropes. Modern calculations show that it would have taken 500 men using leather ropes to pull one stone, with an extra 100 men needed to lay the huge rollers in front of the sledge."
Nick Snashall, a National Trust archaeologist for the Avebury and Stonehenge world heritage site stated that the new "superhenge" discovery, "adds a whole new chapter to the Stonehenge story.”
His colleague, Paul Garwood, an archaeologist and lead historian on Stonehenge from the University of Birmingham, added;
"Everything written previously about the Stonehenge landscape and the ancient monuments within it will need to be rewritten.”
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