Below-ground mapping reveals Stonehenge secrets

By on 16 September, 2014

Stonehenge below-ground

By combining 6 different instruments to scan Stonehenge’s surrounds, archaeologists have created the most detailed map ever of the ground beneath the area surrounding the monument.

The archaeologists scanned an area of 12 sq km to a depth of three metres with unprecedented resolution, using a combination of magnetometer, ground-penetrating radar (GPR), and 3D laser scanner, among others.

Early results suggest that the iconic monument did not stand alone, but was accompanied by 17 neighbouring shrines. Further analysis of this vast collection of data will produce a new account of how Stonehenge’s landscape evolved over time.

Among the surprises yielded by the research are traces of up to 60 huge stones or pillars which formed part of the 1.5km-wide “super henge” previously identified at nearby Durrington Walls.

“For the past four years we have been looking at this amazing monument to try and see what was around it,” Prof Vincent Gaffney, from the University of Birmingham, said at the British Science Festival.

Nishad Karim, a researcher at the University of Leicester, has used similar instrumentation to reconstruct 16th century Tudor tombs.

“Using GPR and other techniques, these researchers have been able to virtually see through the ground and explore what civilization looked like thousands of years ago,” she told the BBC.

Under one of the numerous mounds, they identified a 33m-long timber building about 6,000 years old, probably used for ritual burials and related practices, possibly including excarnation (stripping flesh from bones).

“[The building] has three rows of roof-bearing posts. It is around 300 square metres and slightly trapezoidal, which is interesting because in the same period on the continent, about 100 to 200 years earlier, we also find this type of trapezoidal building related to megaliths [giant stones],” said Prof Wolfgang Neubauer, director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, which was also involved in the research.

Another 17 mounds revealed previously unseen ritual monuments about the same age as Stonehenge itself.

You can learn more about the research at the original BBC story.

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