Archaeologists Discover Enormous Ring of Ancient Pits Near Stonehenge
by Theresa Machemer/Smithsonianmag.com
Stonehenge is arguably the most well-known megalith in the United Kingdom. But the structures surrounding this roughly 5,000-year-old monument boast equally fascinating histories. Take, for instance, Durrington Walls, a large Neolithic hedge located just under two miles northeast of its more famous neighbor. Though prehistoric humans likely used Stonehenge as a sacred place for ceremonies and burials, Durrington Walls was where they actually lived and feasted together.
Now, new research published in the journal Internet Archaeology reveals another layer of this historic landscape. Deep pits dot the area surrounding Durrington Walls, creating a mile-wide circle centered on the stone monument. Archaeologists had previously identified several of the anomalies, but a renewed round of remote-sensing testing and ground sampling showed that the pits—buried under layers of loose clay that accumulated over time—are deeper and more deliberately placed than once thought.
At one point, the Neolithic site may have hosted more than 30 such shafts, reports Vanessa Romo for NPR. Today, at least 20 remain. Each pit measures roughly 30 feet wide and 15 feet deep.