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Radar search reveals Stonehenge II one mile from Wiltshire site

Updated: 2015-09-09
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For centuries Stonehenge has mystified and enraptured archaeologists and visitors. 
 
So maybe it is not surprising that another monumental wonder from prehistory has been overlooked for so long – even though it is just a mile away. 
 
Experts have discovered an 'extraordinary' line of giant stones that dates back more than 4,500 years.   
  
The area around Stonehenge is littered with prehistoric sights but the 90 or more stones, lying 3ft underground, have only just been discovered by sophisticated radar equipment towed by quadbikes.
  

New discovery: Experts have discovered an 'extraordinary' line of giant stones that dates back more than 4,500 years just a mile from Stonehenge
     
The buried monoliths are each up to 15ft tall. Instead of being arranged in a circle as they are at Stonehenge, it is thought they once formed a long standing line. 
 
'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,' said Professor Vince Gaffney, from the University of Bradford, one of the archaeologists leading the research. '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.

'We presume it to be a ritual arena of some sort. These things are theatrical… designed to impress.'
The stones were placed along the south-eastern edge of what later became the Durrington Walls 'superhenge' – a circular settlement ringed by a ditch and bank that, at a third of a mile across, is the largest earthwork of its kind in the UK. 
  

The buried monoliths are each up to 15ft tall. Instead of being arranged in a circle as they are at Stonehenge, it is thought they once formed a long standing line, as shown in an artist's impression, above
    
 
Experts believe they were not originally part of the henge but were deliberately toppled. Above, a computer generated image of how they may have looked when first erected more than 4,500 years ago


The stones have only recently been discovered by sophisticated radar technology which detected them underground (above)
  
Who toppled them and whether the arena was a rival attraction to Stonehenge or part of the same complex of sacred sites is unknown. They may even have been pushed over to protect their sacred significance, Professor Gaffney said. 
 
The stones, which have not yet been excavated, are thought to be 'sarsens' – giant sandstone blocks like those used at Stonehenge. 
 
The discovery was unveiled at the British Science Festival at the University of Bradford. 
 
At the same event last year, the Hidden Landscapes study revealed a host of archaeological features around Stonehenge. 
 
Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust archaeologist for Stonehenge, said: 'The Stonehenge landscape has been studied for centuries. 
 
'But the work of the Hidden Landscapes team is revealing previously unsuspected twists in its age-old tale.' 
 
The discovery at Durrington Walls was unveiled at the British Science Festival, taking place this week at the University of Bradford. 
 
At the same event last year, the international team revealed a host of previously unknown archaeological features that had been hidden in the landscape around Stonehenge. 
 
They included a 108ft long burial mound containing a massive wooden building whose timber foundations lay under the soil. 
 
Prof Gaffney believes the stones may have been planted by the same people who built Stonehenge, but is sceptical about a direct link between the two monuments. 
 
They were placed along a steep slope, or scarp, cut into a natural dry valley to form a C-shaped feature. 
 
Precisely why the stones were put there remains a mystery. 
 
Part of Durrington Walls is aligned with the rising sun on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, which may be significant. 
 
The archaeologists believe that at some stage the stones were pushed over and incorporated into the emerging henge. 
 
This was not an act of vandalism but a deliberate attempt to preserve whatever it was about the stones that seemed so important. 
 
'There was a transformation in the landscape that we do not understand,' Prof Gaffney said.
'The stones had significance. 
 
'These are special places. Societies are mobilised, as with the great cathedrals, to create these things.'

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