Scientists from the University of Birmingham have found a satellite henge close to the world famous Stonehenge. The researchers were just nine days into a four year project,. They anticipate further discoveries.
The discovery was made by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project. using non invasive ground penetrating radar. The Birmingham scientists work within a team from the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospecting and Virtual Archaeology in Vienna and other scientists from Germany, Norway and Sweden.
The radar survey has revealed a ring of post holes just 900 yards from the Stonehenge site.
Scientists are using the phrase Timberhenge to describe the site but it is not yet clear whether it is a henge. A henge is a site surrounded by an earth bank. The site that has been found contains a series of circular depressions. The researchers expect to find similar sites nearby. One site called Woodhenge has been known for some time. Woodhenge is 2 miles from Stonehenge and was discovered in 1925.
The ring of post holes indicate that Timberhenge had two entrances, one to the northwest and one to the southwest. Timberland, like Stonehenge, is aligned towards the midsummer sunrise and the midwinter sunset. The one metre wide pits that have been discovered within the structure have yet to be interpreted. They could have held wooden obelisks, large pieces of bog oak as have been found at other sites, or been pits, or held large blue stones similar to those at nearby Stonehenge. Some scientists already think that this is a wooden twin for Stonehenge.
Early indications are that the structure was built at about the time of Stonehenge, some 4,500 years ago.
For some time scientists have thought that the key to Stonehenge lies in relating it to the broader landscape. Academics want to understand the relationships between Stonehenge, the nearby Cursus, Avenue, Woodhenge, the Durrington Wall settlement and the River Avon. Scientists think that the landscape may divide into distinct territories relating to life and death. The research project is unusual because it uses high tech visualization techniques to produce 3D images and tease out features from the landscape.
The discovery comes within weeks of the launch of a major excavation at Marden Rings which like Stonehenge are in Wiltshire on Salisbury Plain. The Marden Rings have been almost entirely lost through ploughing. They were once ten times the size of Stonehenge.
The discovery at Timberland is significant. While the role of Timberland is unclear one thing is certain the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project will radically change our understanding of the Stonehenge monument.