Vast stone monument found under “super-henge”

In the Salisbury Plain three kilometers (1.8 miles) from Stonehenge lie the banks of a “super-henge” known as Durrington Walls. It’s super because of its sheer size: 500 meters (1640 feet) in diameter, 1.5 kilometers (one mile) in circumference with a surrounding ditch 18 meters (59 feet) wide with an outer bank 40 meters (131 feet) wide. Heavily eroded, the outer slope of the ditch and inner slope of the bank form a ridge that is one meter (three feet) high at its highest points; the ridge is the “walls” of Durrington Walls. It was built around 2,600 B.C. in the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age.

Using the latest and greatest ground penetrating radar technology, the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape project has found that underneath the bank is a row of up to 90 standing stones, 30 of which appear to be intact and are as much as 4.5 meters (15 feet) high. Others are broken or missing, the latter identified by huge foundation pits. Even incomplete and unexcavated, this is the largest stone monument ever found in Britain.

At Durrington, more than 4.5 thousand years ago, a natural depression near the river Avon appears to have been accentuated by a chalk cut scarp and then delineated on the southern side by the row of massive stones. Essentially forming a C-shaped ‘arena’, the monument may have surrounded traces of springs and a dry valley leading from there into the Avon. Although none of the stones have yet been excavated a unique sarsen standing stone, “The Cuckoo Stone”, remains in the adjacent field and this suggests that other stones may have come from local sources.

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. The latest surveys now provide evidence that Stonehenge’s largest neighbour, Durrington Walls, had an earlier phase which included a large row of standing stones probably of local origin and that the context of the preservation of these stones is exceptional and the configuration unique to British archaeology.

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.

Archaeologists believe the stones were toppled and the later henge whose earthwork remains are visible above ground built on top of them. The former standing stones became the awkwardly flat southern perimeter of the Durrington Walls henge. Here’s a digital model of the standing stones as they would have looked when they still stood that fades into the later bank.


That C-shape is familiar. Remember the stone circle found on Dartmoor that was the southernmost point of a crescent formed by other stone circles? The Dartmoor stones fell around 4,000 years ago, so the circles and the henge could well have been contemporaries.

Lastly, here is an extremely adorable picture of one of the magnetometer surveys in the area.


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Comment by dearieme
2015-09-08 06:29:39

If people start driving that sort of equipment over all the pastures in lowland Britain, Lord knows what they might find. Then the high land, such as Dartmoor, and on arable between crops. Or could you use drones to do the work over the arable without damaging crops …. ? In fact, could you do a lot of this with (big?) drones anyway? If not now, how soon? Or could you attach the equipment to tractors ploughing or combines harvesting?

What will turn up that is most surprising, and in which era? Place your bets – Stone Age, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman Age, Dark Ages ……

Comment by dearieme
2015-09-08 06:31:16

I look forward to the conversations. In the pub: “What did you do today, Bert?” “Oh, harvested a good few acres of sugar beet and discovered two Bronze Age sites.”

Comment by Sven
2015-09-08 07:26:18

IKEA assembly guide “HENJ”, scroll down for it here.


Comment by Annie Delyth
2015-09-08 15:01:27

I have at best a sketchy mind map of England, so although I “sort of” knew where Stonehenge is, I realized I knew little about its surroundings. The description of the super-henge and its stones, and other nearby monuments interested me, as did the landscape itself. So I did some online research.

Wow. What a fascinating area, geologically and biologically, as well as the intriguing archaeology. I could do w/o the military thing, but then one of my favorite places in US also has a firing range in it.

Now I wish I could go visit, not just for the monuments, but because I want to see the remarkable plants and creatures who live there. It is beautiful.

BTW, thank you, Sven. Some things just should not be allowed to get away!

Comment by bort
2015-09-08 17:55:54

:skull: :skull: :skull:

In a game I used to play one could not only visit Stonehenge, but also delve beneath it in search of adventure and fat loot and death if you weren’t too careful. Since those days I’ve always felt I had a connection to Stonehenge. It’s not really real, this connection I mean, but I’m always hungry for news about the site and the surrounding area. I mean, who knew that there was so much more to discover when that place has been visited so often by so many, right?

Even though in the game the geography of England is a bit truncated, I couldn’t help but wonder what feature the game had or could place for this super henge. Then it hit me. In the approximate northwest from Stonehenge – though not exact – is the entrance to the mega-dungeon called Darkness Falls. Wherein not only is the player confronted with some of the more daunting PVE challenges but in some places one also has to face other (and from your perspective) evil players to boot!

And also: :boogie: :boogie: :boogie:

Because anybody could post a picture of the ground penetrating radar in action, but livius knows my weakness: Adorable farm aminals being adorable.


Comment by Cordate
2015-09-08 19:15:05

All in favour of many more magnetometer surveys if they result in prancing lambs.

Comment by dearieme
2015-09-10 15:43:32

Folk wisdom asserts that you can keep lambs away by muttering “Mint sauce, mint sauce”.

Comment by Emily
2017-06-22 02:01:54

I have, best case scenario a crude personality guide of England, so despite the fact that I “kind of” knew where Stonehenge is, I understood I knew minimal about its environment. The depiction of the super-henge and its stones, and other adjacent landmarks intrigued me, as did the scene itself. So I did some online research.

Comment by Emily
2017-06-22 02:03:08

In a diversion I used to play one couldn’t just visit Stonehenge, additionally dive underneath it looking for enterprise and fat plunder and demise on the off chance that you weren’t excessively cautious. Since those days I’ve generally felt I had an association with Stonehenge. It’s not by any stretch of the imagination genuine, this association I mean, however I’m generally eager for news about the site and the encompassing territory. That is to say, who realized that there was a lot more to find when that place has been gone to so frequently by such a large number of, isn’t that so?

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