Tuesday, 8 December 2009

New Stone Circle Provides Clues to the Meaning of Stonehenge

Archaeologists have discovered evidence of a lost stone circle on the banks of the River Avon, just a mile from Stonehenge.

Excavations by the Stonehenge Riverside Project uncovered nine stone holes, thought to be part of a circle originally made up of 25 standing stones.

According to Dr Josh Pollard from the University of Bristol and co-director of the project, the newly-discovered circle and henge should be considered an integral part of Stonehenge rather than a separate monument. “It offers tremendous insight into the history of its famous neighbour,” He said.

The stones from the site, named Bluestonehenge, were removed thousands of years ago but the sizes of the holes in which they stood indicate that this was a circle of bluestones originating from the Preseli mountains of Wales 150 miles away, like the inner stones at Stonehenge.

Its riverside location provides compelling evidence of the importance of the River Avon in Neolithic funerary rites and ceremonies. The discovery supports the Stonehenge Riverside Project’s theory that the River Avon linked a ‘domain of the living’ marked by timber circles and houses upstream at the Neolithic village of Durrington Walls with a ‘domain of the dead’ marked by Stonehenge and this new Bluestonehenge circle.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson, from the University of Sheffield and principal director of the project, said: “It could be that Bluestonehenge was where the dead began their final journey to Stonehenge. Not many people know that Stonehenge was Britain’s largest burial ground at that time. Maybe the bluestone circle is where people were cremated before their ashes were buried at Stonehenge itself.”

Evidence shows that the builders of the stone circle used deer antlers as pickaxes. Within the next few months, radiocarbon dating of these antler picks will provide more precise dates and reveal whether the circle was in fact built at the same time as Stonehenge.


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