The mystery of Britain's ancient Stonehenge has deepened.
In July 2010, during the first week of a three-year project to survey the Stonehenge landscape, archaeologists found a second henge just yards away from the iconic stone circle. The word "henge" is used to describe any circular ritual site in Britain dating from the late Neolithic Age, which was 3,000 to 2,000 B.C., according to Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology magazine.
The BBC News reports that an international team from Britain, Austria, Germany, Norway and Sweden discovered the second henge, which is thought to have once held a ceremonial monument made of wood. Project leader Vince Gaffney of the University of Birmingham in Great Britain said the discovery was "exceptional" and will completely change the way we think about the landscape around Stonehenge.
The circular ditch surrounds a smaller circle of deep pits about three feet wide, and archaeologists believe these once held timber posts. It has two entrances on the northeast and southwest sides. Gaffney said inside the circle is a burial mound on top that appeared much later.
"You seem to have a large-ditched feature, but it seems to be made of individual scoops rather than just a straight trench," he explained to the BBC. "When we looked a bit more closely, we then realized there was a ring of pits about a meter wide going all the way around the edge. When you see that as an archaeologist, you just looked at it and thought, 'that's a henge monument'--it's a timber equivalent to Stonehenge. From the general shape, we would guess it dates back to about the time when Stonehenge was emerging at its most complex. This is really quite interesting and exceptional; it starts to give us a different perspective of the landscape."
Stonehenge is 4,500 years old, and we still have not been able to figure out exactly why it was built or its purpose, although many theories abound. Various experts now believe it was used as a cemetery for 500 years, beginning at the point of its inception.
--From the Editors at Netscape