The area around Stonehenge is one of the most-studied archaeological landscapes in the world, which makes it all the more surprising that a team of archaeologists made one of the most striking finds in recent memory about 2 miles northeast of the famed prehistoric monument, The Guardian reports.
The uncovered area, which dates back around 4,500 years, is a 1.2-mile circle of deep shafts surrounding the likely sacred Neolithic henge monument known as Durrington Walls that reportedly sits precisely at the center. All told, archaeologists are describing the structure as the largest ever found in Britain. "This is an unprecedented find of major significance within the U.K.," said Prof. Vincent Gaffney, a leading archaeologist on the project. "Key researchers on Stonehenge and its landscape have been taken aback by the scale of the structure and the fact that it hadn't been discovered until now so close to Stonehenge."
The reason the shafts escaped notice for so long was because they had filled naturally over thousands of years, and were dismissed as natural sinkholes and dew ponds. But the latest technology helped show they were actually geophysical anomalies.
The Durrington Shafts discovery will shed light on the Neolithic communities' belief systems and also reportedly offers the first evidence that the early inhabitants of Britain had developed a counting method since constructing something of this size — the shafts are are each more than five meters deep and 10 meters in diameter — such careful positioning suggests the builders were tracking their paces. Placing each shaft would reportedly have required walking approximately 800 meters from the henge to the boundary. Read more at The Guardian.