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Archaeologists uncover 'super henge' near Stonehenge

Archaeologists have used ground-penetrating digital mapping technology to discover that Stonehenge was once dwarfed by a massive "super henge" nearby.

The findings come after the completion of a four-year archaeology project, co-led by Vincent Gaffney, a professor at the University of Birmingham in the U.K. The digital map, which used magnetic and laser scans as well as high-resolution, ground-penetrating radar of the Durrington Walls, has revealed that just two miles northeast of Stonehenge was what Gaffney has dubbed a "super henge."

The researchers discovered a line of now-buried holes that were once home to more than 50 new stone monuments buried beneath the Stonehenge bank. Archaeologists estimate the stones were brought to the site before 2,500 B.C.E. The stones appear to have formed a C-shaped, ritual "enclosure" facing the River Avon. The researchers speculate the enclosure may have been a religious complex, The Independent reports.

"Up till now, we had absolutely no idea that the stones were there," Gaffney told The Independent. "They look as they may have been pushed over. That's a big prehistoric monument which we never knew anything about," he told Nature. "I'm sure it will guide future excavations."

In addition to the new stones at Durrington Walls, the project has led to the discovery of more than 60 other monuments, as well as ritual pits and burial mounds. Gaffney will present his team's findings at the British Science Festival this week. "It shows that, in terms of temples and shrines, Stonehenge was far from being alone," Gaffney told The Independent. --Meghan DeMaria