Newly Discovered “Superhenge” Monument Dwarfs Nearby Stonehenge

By Carl Engelking | September 8, 2015 3:46 pm
An illustration of what the newly discovered row of stones would've looked like above ground. (Credit: LBI ArchPro, Juan Torrejón Valdelomar, Joachim Brandtner)

An illustration of what the newly discovered row of stones would’ve looked like above ground. (Credit: LBI ArchPro, Juan Torrejón Valdelomar, Joachim Brandtner)

It’s hard to fathom, but Stonehenge, one of the world’s most iconic wonders, is really just the figurative opening act to a much larger show.

Five years ago, researchers from the University of Bradford starting probing the dirt of the Stonehenge World Heritage Site in Wiltshire, England, with remote-sensing instruments to build a map of what’s buried beneath. The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project has already revealed hundreds of previously unidentified ancient features underfoot, and on Monday the team announced another: a super-sized version of Stonehenge buried just 2 miles away from the iconic ancient site.

Buried Landmarks

Researchers with the Hidden Landscapes Project hitch ground-penetrating radar devices to trailers towed by four-wheelers and tractors. As team members drive slowly over the fields near Stonehenge, their devices beam electromagnetic signals into the soil, which subsequently bounce back. Researchers can then determine if there’s something buried under the soil based on patterns in the returning signal.

The instruments are so advanced that it’s possible to construct a 3-D image of what’s buried underground based on the signal.

Using this method, the Hidden Landscapes team now have found a row of roughly 90 standing stones, some that were originally 15 feet tall, buried near Durrington Walls just two miles from Stonehenge. In case you aren’t familiar, the Durrington Walls site is a C-shaped, man-made earthen berm constructed some 4,500 years ago — a century after Stonehenge — which is nearly one mile wide. Researchers believe Durrington Walls may have housed one of the largest Neolithic settlements in Europe.

New, Old Stones

The stones were found beneath three feet of soil and lying on their sides. Researchers believe the line of stones was built around the same time as Stonehenge, and builders may have knocked them over when the Durrington Walls went up nearly a century later.

A map of new monuments discovered during the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project. (Credit: LBI ArchPro, Juan Torrejón Valdelomar, Joachim Brandtner)

A map of new monuments discovered during the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project. (Credit: LBI ArchPro, Juan Torrejón Valdelomar, Joachim Brandtner)

The line of stones is just the latest in a line of discoveries from the Hidden Landscapes team. Nearly one year ago to the day, the same team announced the discovery of hundreds of new features buried on the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, including 17 circular stone monuments, burial mounds, and a wooden building used to prepare the dead for burial.

After 4,600 years, Stonehenge is still proving that, at least in Wiltshire, there’s more than meets the eye.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Living World, top posts
MORE ABOUT: archaeology
  • Uncle Al

    A huge community worked on the site for decades and more. Where are their buried artifacts and habitation foundations? There is nothing more diagnostic of mankind’s past presence than buried garbage (even today – a landfill is a garbage midden). If you were dropping a huge stone into a deep hole, wouldn’t you drop something down there first as a momento to the future? One presumes there was no lack of deceased workers, including disease. It’s a neat solution, sanitary and godly both.

    • OWilson

      We are so used to seeing stone foundations of early settlements, Egypt, Greece, Crete etc, that we expect them even in lush countryside like England.

      The housing was primarily made of the readily available wood and mud (wattle and daub) and has long since deteriorated.

      The midden heaps though will still be there waiting to be found.

      • Uncle Al

        Perhaps it was to be one big stone, then government administration and union labor took over. What of so many young males suddenly loosed by project completion, suddenly economically disenfranchised? Testosterone and feeding your kids are not voices for reasoned debate.

        Was eventual completion followed by massive migration or large scale local infantry engagements? Did the project exhaust resources and collapse (e.g., Rapa Nui)?

        • OWilson

          If we speculate from our modern world view, anything is possible.

          But I think that when we look at those ancient stones, all we see is the skeleton of a project, minus the overlays of the major construction materials of the day, wood, mud, and reeds.

          It’s like we are looking at the steel structure of a burned out theatre, with the seats, the stage, the actors, long since crumbled to dust.

          Those new found stones around the enclosure could just as easily be formidable defensive fence posts, with the actual fence long since decomposed.

          • Uncle Al

            Agreed. The scholarly work is Stan Lee faced with a deadline.

          • OWilson

            Everything archeologist don’t understand yet is put into the usual category, “ritual” purpose.

            It could have just been a stone age version of London or New York, or Washington (think monumental architecture!) a thriving town.

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          • Eliot

            I have to agree. Listening to traditional archeologists, one would be inclined to believe all prior civilizations did was make sacrifices to their gods. Just because we now live in a throw-away society doesn’t mean anything built to last in the past had to have a monumental (in the literal and hyperbolic senses) purpose.

    • Eliot

      Remember, there has been no dig at the area. So far it is only what ground-penetrating radar has disclosed. Pottery, tools, etc. would most likely not show up unless very large and very close to the surface.


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