That Hidden ‘Superhenge’ Was a Super Dud

By Carl Engelking | August 16, 2016 3:52 pm
An artist's conception of the "Superhenge" that never was.

An artist’s conception of the “Superhenge” that never was. (Credit: LBI ArchPro, Juan Torrejón Valdelomar, Joachim Brandtner)

Last year, researchers announced that a “Superhenge” buried underground a couple miles from Stonehenge was poised to upstage the iconic monument.

Archaeologists with the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project hitched ground-penetrating radar devices to trailers towed by four-wheelers and tractors. Using these advanced instruments, they constructed a 3-D picture of what was buried beneath.

Based on the images, the team believed it had discovered a row of roughly 90 standing stones, some that were originally 15 feet tall, buried near Durrington Walls just two miles from Stonehenge.

This year, when shovels hit dirt — ground-truthing as archaeologists say — they didn’t find a Superhenge. There was no evidence of large buried stones — sorry druids. Still, the dig added yet another perplexing twist to the history of one of mankind’s most intriguing monuments.

What They Found 

So what did archaeologists find? It turns out the structures picked up on radar were actually large pits that contained wooden posts long ago. Here’s what National Trust archaeologist Nicola Snashall told BBC News:

“What we’ve discovered are that there are two enormous pits for timber posts. They have got ramps at the sides to lower posts into. They did contain timbers, which have been vertically lifted out and removed at some stage. The top was then filled in with chalk rubble and then the giant henge bank was raised over the top.”

Snashall says builders of Stonehenge constructed the beginnings of a large timber circle around Durrington Walls once the settlement in the area went out of use.

The dig wasn’t a complete “dud” by any means, as it built a more accurate picture of what was, or wasn’t, at the site long ago. And it’s a safe bet that Stonehenge hasn’t revealed all its secrets. Over the past few years, researchers have identified several new structures in the countryside around Stonehenge.

They’ve also learned that those iconic stones might have been hand-me-downs, and that Stonehenge builders loved to barbecue.

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

    I can see the future archaeologists digging up the entire Washington Mall and opining it was a giant ritual religious gathering place where the masses worshiped the statue of the Great Bearded Man on the Pedestal in the Temple.

    • Robert Holmén

      With fertility rites, of course.

      • OWilson

        Of course, there’s that huge phallic Washington Monument.

        Look at it, it is downright obscene :)

        Any day soon, it will be covered up by politically correct college students who are “offended” by it.

        Definitely sexism!

    • Laura Buchanan

      Read Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay. It is about this exact idea. In 4022 archaeologists excavate Usa and then explain their findings. It’s great!

      • OWilson

        Love it already!. I’ll look for it.

    • Sheila Hotchkiss Rowland

      Don’t be silly. Washington Mall is written into recorded history.

      • OWilson

        For millennia, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and Britons have grazed their sheep over majestic monuments they had no idea who built them or even what their purpose was.

        Are you sure that with all the doomsday scenarios we are told we are facing on this “dying” planet, there will be somebody who could make a microprocessor in their lean-to shed a 1,000 years from now?

        2 weeks without electricity in any city and there would be roving bands of looters coming for your stuff! :)

        Anything that could be burned would be burned, to stay warm.

        Look up the sack of the Great Library of Alexandria, by Christians.

        Worth a read!

  • J Hicks

    While many stone edifices will remain, the obelisk is likely to be toppled by a future earthquake and the round temple will sink into the river.
    I wonder what future archaeologists will make of the juxtaposition of the Hirshhorn within walking distance of the old Smithsonian ‘castle’ and evidence of space invaders nearby.


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