23 July 2010

Stunning new discovery rivals Stonehenge

Agence France-Presse
Archaeologists say they've had found traces of a wooden structure built close to the British monument of Stonehenge, a stunning discovery that sheds new light on an ancient place of worship.
Stonehenge Lomografía

Stonehenge was not alone, archaeologists report. Credit: Wikimedia

LONDON: Archaeologists say they’ve had found traces of a wooden structure built close to the British monument of Stonehenge, a stunning discovery that sheds new light on an ancient place of worship.

The prehistoric monument is said to be like a wooden “twin” of the collection of giant stones piled up on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, southwest England.

“This is probably the first major ceremonial monument that has been found in the past 50 years or so,” said Vince Gaffney, a professor from the University of Birmingham, who is leading the archaeological dig. “It will completely change the way we think about the landscape around Stonehenge.

Part of a large, holy complex

“People have tended to think that as Stonehenge reached its peak it was the paramount monument, existing in splendid isolation. This discovery is completely new and extremely important in how we understand Stonehenge and its landscape.”

The “henge-like” monument, found just 900 metres (2,950 feet) away from Stonehenge, is thought to have been a circular, timber structure with two entrances and was probably built around the same time, some 4,500 years ago.

The circle is about the same size as Stonehenge and consists of pits in the ground about one metre (three feet) wide, which the researchers believe could have held wooden obelisks.

It would have been visible from Stonehenge and archaeologists believe the new find suggests the stone circle was just one part of a larger, holy complex.

High-tech solution to Stonehenge’s landscape

The origins of Stonehenge are unclear, but the stone circle is one of Britain’s biggest tourist draws and twice a year is the focus of celebrations of the summer and winter solstices.

The wooden structure was unearthed by a team of archaeologists led by the University of Birmingham and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Vienna, as part of a major project to map the landscape around Stonehenge using high-tech equipment.

The scientists said they stumbled upon the second monument just two weeks into the three-year, multi-million pound (dollar, euro) study that also involves researchers from Germany, Norway and Sweden.

They expect this to be the first of many significant discoveries in the area.

Brand new method of archaeological investigation

“This is just the beginning,” said professor Wolfgang Neubauer, director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute.

“We will now map this monument using an array of technologies that will allow us to view this new discovery, and the landscape around it, in three dimensions.

“This marks a new departure for archaeologists and how they investigate the past.”

Archaeologist Amanda Chadburn, from English Heritage, added: “The discovery is all the more remarkable given how much research there has been in the vicinity of Stonehenge, and emphasises the importance of continuing research within and around the World Heritage Site.”

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