| 3 October 2009
Traces of a stone circle discovered near Stonehenge
Archaeologists may have discovered Stonehenge's little sister - just a mile from the famous monument. The traces of a prehistoric stone circle, discovered in secret over the summer, are one of the most important finds in decades. Some researchers have called it 'Bluehenge' after the colour of the 27 giant Welsh stones it once incorporated - but are now missing. The find is already challenging conventional wisdom about how Stonehenge was built - and what it was used for.
The recently discovered stone circle was put up 5,000 years ago - around the same time as work began on Stonehenge - and appears to have been a miniature version of it. The two circles stood together for hundreds of years before Bluehenge was dismantled. Researchers believe its stones were used to enlarge Stonehenge during one of a number of redevelopments.
Professor Tim Darvill, Stonehenge expert at Bournemouth University, said: "This adds to the richness of the story of Stonehenge. We thought we knew it all, but over the last few years we have discovered that something as familiar as Stonehenge is still a challenge to explore and understand. It wouldn't surprise me if there weren't more circles."
All that remains of the 60ft wide Bluehenge are the holes of 27 giant stones set on a ramped mount. Chips of blue stone found in the holes appear to be identical to the blue stones used in Stonehenge. The four-ton monsters, made of Preseli Spotted Dolerite - a chemically altered igneous rock harder than granite - were mined in the Preseli Mountains in Pembrokeshire and then rolled, dragged and floated the 200 miles to the site on the banks of the Avon in Wiltshire. Once installed, the stones would have been polished to a dark blue with silver flecks resembling the night sky. Bluehenge lies at the end of the 'Avenue' - a ritual pathway that connected Stonehenge to the Avon.
The new find suggests that the creators of Stonehenge originally built two circles - one with 56 stones at Stonehenge, and another with 27 at Bluehenge. The stones of the smaller circle were eventually incorporated into the bigger one. Bluehenge was discovered by Professor Mike Parker Pearson, of Sheffield University, who argues the monuments were linked to rituals of life and death. Julian Richards, archaeologist and presenter of BBC2 TV series Meet The Ancestors, believes, however, that such certainty is beyond our reach. "Any one person who says they have the answer is being a bit over-confident," he said. "If you think that Stonehenge was created, used and modified over 1,400 years then it probably was used for many different things." Professor Geoffrey Wainwright, who found the source of the Stonehenge stones in Wales with Professor Darvill, said: "This [new] henge is very important because it forms part of the picture of ceremonial monuments in the area and puts Stonehenge into context. It's no longer Stonehenge standing alone, but it has to be seen in context with the landscape."
Lovers of prehistoric sites will have to wait until February before the full details of Bluehenge are published.
Source: Mail Online (2 October 2009)
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