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15 ancient monuments discovered beneath Stonehenge

A new report from the Smithsonian Institute has found that 15 previously undiscovered ancient monuments lie beneath the Stonehenge fields.

The Neolithic monuments, which include henges, barrows, segmented ditches, and pits, show that Stonehenge "was not just an isolated monument in an unspoilt landscape, but was part of a much bigger complex," reports Ancient Origins. The researchers also discovered a significant gap in the Cursus monument, which dates to circa 3,500 B.C.E. The monument's opening suggests that people may have gone inside it at one point. The new findings, including the Cursus monument's break, suggest a new batch of evidence about the human civilization at Stonehenge.

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project found the monuments using magnetic sensors to create a 3D map of the area within a four-square-mile radius. The researchers, who conducted the four-year project with Austria's Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology, hope it will provide further insight into the creation and purpose of the Stonehenge Cursus. "Those vast stones, standing in concentric rings in the middle of a basin on Salisbury Plain, carefully placed by who-knows-who thousands of years ago, must mean something," Smithsonian magazine explains. "But nobody can tell us what."

"This is among the most important landscapes, and probably the most studied landscape, in the world," Vince Gaffney, an archaeologist at the University of Birmingham, told Smithsonian. "And the area has been absolutely transformed by this survey. It won't be the same again."