While we Americans were barbecuing yesterday, Europe was working. Researchers from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute’s Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology department were busy putting out a press release with some startling news: “The remains of a major new prehistoric stone monument have been discovered less than 3 kilometers from Stonehenge.”
The discovery was made at Durrington Walls, an earthen henge enclosure 3.2 kilometers (two miles) to the northeast of Stonehenge. (Durrington Walls itself is much larger than Stonehenge, with a diameter of 500 meters versus the 100-meter bank ringing the latter.) Using ground-penetrating radar, the APVA and their partners, the University of Birmingham’s Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, have spotted no less than 90 massive stones underground, arranged in a curving row outside the diameter of the Durrington bank. At least 30 of the stones appear to be fully intact, with some reckoned to be as tall as 4.5 meters (nearly 15 feet).
Here’s a CG flyover to give you a sense of the scale:
Previous, intensive study of the area around Stonehenge had led archaeologists to believe that only Stonehenge and a smaller henge at the end of the Stonehenge Avenue possessed significant stone structures….
This new discovery has significant implications for our understanding of Stonehenge and its landscape setting. The earthwork enclosure at Durrington Walls was built about a century after the Stonehenge sarsen circle (in the 27th century BC), but the new stone row could well be contemporary with or earlier than this. Not only does this new evidence demonstrate an early phase of monumental architecture at one of the greatest ceremonial sites in prehistoric Europe, it also raises significant questions about the landscape the builders of Stonehenge inhabited and how they changed this with new monument-building during the 3rd millennium BC.
In our eyes, the most significant aspect of the discovery is sociological. As we can see in overhead shots, Durrington Walls and its attendant monument were undoubtedly intended to be perfectly round, but the builders have done a poor job following the blueprints. This proves that contractors from the 27th Century B.C. were not all that different from the contractors of today.