A huge, prehistoric religious and ceremonial centre has been discovered near Britain’s most famous prehistoric temple Stonehenge. Its discovery is likely to transform our understanding of the early development of Stonehenge’s ancient landscape.
Ceremonial Centre Older than Stonehenge
Built about 5,650 years ago – more than 1,000 years before the great stones of Stonehenge were erected – the 200m-diameter complex is the first major early Neolithic monument to be discovered in the Stonehenge area for more than a century.
The newly discovered complex, just over a mile and a half north-east of Stonehenge, appears to have consisted of around 950m of segmented ditches – and potentially palisaded earthen banks – arranged in two great concentric circles.
So far, archaeologists have located and excavated around 100 metres worth of the outer ditch. It is not yet known how much, if any, of the rest of the monument has survived.
Enigmatic Causewayed Enclosures
Up till now, apart from more than 20 giant tombs – the so-called ‘long barrows’ – the only known early Neolithic monument in the Stonehenge area was a large circular religious and ceremonial ‘causewayed enclosure’ nicknamed Robin Hood’s Ball, 2.5 miles north-west of Stonehenge.
Causewayed enclosures – so-called because their ditches are “crossed” by multiple causeways – are among the most enigmatic of prehistoric monuments. Around 70 are known in England. Others exist on the continent, in Germany, Denmark and elsewhere.
Their precise original function remains a mystery, but the scant available evidence suggests that they were used for a mixture of ceremonial, religious, political and mortuary roles.
Located at Larkhill, Wiltshire, the newly found “causewayed” enclosure, dating from around 3650BC, is in an area covered by modern military buildings and other installations.
Its discovery strongly suggests that the remains of other important prehistoric monuments probably still survive undetected in the area. The discovery suggests that Stonehenge’s ancient sacred landscape still has many secrets to reveal. Indeed, it follows fast on the heels of another discovery half a mile to the south-east, made just three months ago, when archaeologists found what, back in the Stonehenge era, had been a vast circle of giant timber posts.
For more details, read the source article on the independent website.
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