With the help of 21st century radar scanning technology, a giant ritual monument dating from the time of Stonehenge has emerged from under the bank of a nearby stone-age settlement. It appears to have a lot of fresh answers for some burdening questions about the origins of the site and the exact purpose it served.
Archaeologists have long been intrigued about Durrington Walls – a roundish super-henge almost 5,000 years old. Because of its unusual shape – with one side straight and the rest of the structure curved, the role of this place has remained unknown until recently. In 1810, Sir Richard Colt Hoare speculated that its shape has been damaged over time, and because of this, its role can easily be misinterpreted.
In present days though, using ground-penetrating radar technology, archaeologists have discovered that the straight edge stands over a series of 90 immense stones which stand 15 feet high, forming a C-shaped arena which probably served as a ritual procession path.
“It’s utterly remarkable!” said Professor Vince Gaffney of the University of Bradford. “It is definitely one of the largest stone monuments in Europe and is completely unique. We’ve never seen something like this in the world. We can’t tell what the stones are made of, but they are the same height as the sarsens in the Stonehenge circle, so they may be the same kind. It was probably for a ritual of some sort, or it could have marked out an arena. These monuments were very theatrical. This is a design to impress and empower.”
Not only does the new evidence demonstrate a completely unexpected phase of monumental architecture at one of the greatest ceremonial sites in prehistoric Europe, the new stone row could well be contemporary with the famous Stonehenge sarsen circle or even earlier.
The site was raised approximately 4,500 years ago during the Neolithic, or the New Stone Age. It is located in a depression near Amesbury, Wiltshire, not far from the River Amon. With over 1,640 feet in diameter, the structure is considered one of the biggest existing henge monuments in Europe.
Durrington Walls was built on the same summer solstice alignment as Stonehenge. Researchers suggest that the people who built Stonehenge inhabited Durrington at that point in time, and were preparing the ceremonial ground and attending special rituals. According to the new uncovered clues, a wooden structure from the vicinity is thought to symbolize the land of the living, while Stonehenge symbolizes the realm of the dead.
The Bradford team of archaeologists have started a collaboration with an international team of researchers in the hope of revealing the buried and hidden landscape of Stonehenge, while at the same time mapping the entire area with the help of the latest ground-penetrating radar.
“Everything written previously about Stonehenge landscape and the ancient monuments within it will need to be re-written,” said Paul Garwoodon, lead historian and member of the archaeological team. “These latest results have produced tantalizing evidence of what lies beneath the ancient earthworks at Durrington Walls. The presence of what appear to be stones, surrounding the site of one of the largest Neolithic settlements in Europe adds a whole new chapter to the Stonehenge story.”
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