Archeologists have discovered a massive series of Neolithic-era wells very close to the Stonehenge site in southern England. As with Stonehenge, its purpose remains a mystery, but the mere detection of the 4,000-5,000-year-old structure, on such a large scale and so close to one of the most recognized prehistoric sites in the world, has left the scientists amazed.
The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes team, a cooperative archaeological effort by a handful of British universities, found 20 of the wells in all, forming most of a circle around the already-known, small Neolithic circular site known as. The pits, or shafts, were each approximately 20 yards wide and five yards deep, according to the team’s research, which used a combination of high-tech imaging and traditional excavation techniques.
The “Late Neolithic Moat Structure” appears to have surrounded the smaller “superhenge” site of the Durrington walls, which is still a large structure compared to the family circle at Stonehenge. The newly discovered structure is over a mile wide, and its relationship to other structures in the area from the same time period indicates, “an even more complex society than we could imagine,” according to one of the scientists they led. research.
“Clearly sophisticated practices demonstrate that people were so in tune with natural events to the point that we can barely conceive in the modern world,” Dr. Richard Bates of the College of Earth Sciences told the BBC. of the Environment of the University of St Andrews. New discovery.
An animated digital map created by the research team, and shared online by the European Association of Archaeologists, shows the location of the wells in relation to the Durrington Walls superhenge site, all of which are located just two miles from Stonehenge .
According to the research, published in the online scientific journal Internet Archeology, the team found manipulated bone and flint fragments in the ground near the bottom of at least one of the holes dating back to the Late Neolithic.
“The degree of similarity between the 20 identified (pits) features suggests that they may have been part of a circuit of large pits around Durrington Walls,” the newspaper says.
Professor Vincent Gaffney, one of the leading archaeologists on the Hidden Landscapes team, told The Guardian that the wells were “an unprecedented find of great importance within the UK”, saying that experts at Stonehenge and the surrounding landscape were ” baffled by the scale. ” of the structure and the fact that it had so far not been discovered “so close to the iconic stone circle.
While the nature of the site is shrouded in mystery, there is evidence that it may have remained important to humans in the region for thousands of years.
The researchers found signs in at least one of the wells suggesting that it had been “cut” after the initial excavation, “suggesting that some of these features may have remained until the Middle Bronze Age.” That means the site may have remained relevant as humanity passed from the Neolithic period, the Stone Age, to the age of metallurgy and the birth of great urban civilizations.
Archaeologist and author Mike Pitts, who has written extensively on prehistory in Britain, congratulated the team behind the discovery of the Durrington well structure in a tweet, and seemed to marvel at the magnitude of the discovery.
“Your immediate reaction to this is disbelief,” Pitts said, “but as much as you try to disarm it, it remains steadfast.”
“As the place where Stonehenge’s builders lived and celebrated, Durrington Walls is key to uncovering the history of Stonehenge’s broader landscape,” archaeologist Dr. Nick Snashall of the National Trust organization, which manages the site, told the BBC. Stonehenge World Heritage. . “This surprising discovery offers us new insights into the lives and beliefs of our Neolithic ancestors.”