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12 April 2008
Two stone circles discovered near Manchester

Archaeologist have unearthed two stone circles on the moors of Rochdale (Lancashire, England), about 15km from Manchester. The two nearby sites - an oval made up of collapsed slabs, and a 30-metre circle of rounded stones - are believed to be ancient burial sites dating back as far as 5,000 years. They were spotted by archaeologist Stuart Mendelsohn during a walk on the hills in December and could now become a major tourist attraction.
     "I suppose you could describe it as Rochdale's version of Stonehenge," said Mr Mendelson. "It would have been a sacred site and what we've found so far I feel will be the tip of the iceberg. It was very unexpected and I didn't believe it at first. I just can't believe that it's been missed by everyone. The stones are not arranged randomly and it's quite clear to see. For our area and beyond, it's very significant. We've found two burial mounds. The stones may represent particular lunar events in the calendar. I think it would have been a focal point for the whole community."
     The two sites have been visited by Peter Iles, a leading archaeological expert from Lancashire County Council. They have also been inspected by English Heritage and entered on the official Greater Manchester archaeology database. English Heritage described both as 'fairly well preserved' and claim both are 'possible of Bronze age date' - meaning they could date back to 3,000 BCE.
     The first site, made up of fallen stones, is 10.2m in overall diameter. The second, which includes the circle, is on the western slope and - according to an English Heritage report - "seems to have been sited to be visible from some distance to the west, rather than the valley floor". Around 20 stones have been uncovered it total - the largest being 1.5m tall - and the entire site covers an acre.
     "I don't know why that site was chosen originally but it has fantastic views of Rochdale and was fairly close to where people lived. It's a great site and we really need to get it protected and preserved," said Mr Mendelsohn. Norman Redhead, the Greater Manchester county archaeologist, said he planned to visit the site in the next few weeks.

Source: Manchester Evening News (9 April 2008)

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