Vast ancient structure found near Stonehenge
Can we learn from our ancestors? The largest prehistoric structure in the UK was built by hand with simple tools. Some experts say we should be inspired by our Stone Age predecessors.
At first, archaeologists thought they were natural features. The dents in the grass near the ancient monument were probably sinkholes. Looking again, with help from new technology, they found they had been looking at a huge, man-made structure, hidden for millennia, just two miles from Stonehenge.
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It is one of the most famous monuments in Britain. The history of Stonehenge has long fascinated archaeologists. But despite being studied since the Middle Ages, its surroundings are still revealing secrets.
The latest discovery is a circle of deep shafts. Each is more than five-metres deep and 10-metres wide. Over 4,500 years, earth and grass have grown over the ditches, making them difficult to notice. Archaeologists were able to spot them using modern radar and mapping equipment.
The ancient find proves that Neolithic man was more advanced than we thought. The shafts were based on difficult plans and carefully measured distances. One researcher called the discovery a “masterpiece of engineering”.
Can we learn from our Stone Age forebears?
Of course not. In the Neolithic period, life expectancy was 35. Famine and diseases were common. Wild animals and enemy tribes were a constant threat, and food was hard to come by. Now, we have developed medicine and technology. Life is far more peaceful. We are safe from wild beasts and unlikely to starve. We should put the past behind us.
We have lots to learn! Long before the ancient Egyptians built the pyramids, this Neolithic community had a counting system and could build impressive structures with simple tools. Stone Age communities were close: people worked in teams to hunt and gather food. Families and friends protected one other and provided mutual support to survive.
- Would you like to spend the day in a Stone Age village?
- Ancient civilisations made cave paintings using mud mixed with water. Make your own mud painting of Stonehenge.
Some People Say...
“Archaeology is like a jigsaw puzzle, except that you can’t cheat and look at the box, and not all the pieces are there.”Stephen Dean, British archaeologist.
What do you think?
- A natural hole in the ground caused by damage over time from water. Water forms in pools underground and wears down rock, causing objects, like trees, to sink into the ground.
- Thousands of years. The shafts were dug around 4,500 years ago.
- The most fascinating mystery surrounding the henge is how these giant stones were brought 150 miles from Wales to Salisbury Plain before the invention of the wheel.
- A deep, vertical hole.
- Radar and mapping equipment
- The new technology made it possible to recognise unusual patterns in the geography of the land, showing the archaeologists that they had found something man-made, rather than natural.
- A historical period when humans began to settle in tribes and farm land and animals.
- Life expectancy
- The number of years the average human is likely to live. Life expectancy in the UK now is 81, far higher than during the Neolithic period.