Huge ritual arena discovered near Stonehenge

London, Sep 7 (IANS) Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a massive stone monument buried under a thick, grassy bank only two miles from pre-historic monument Stonehenge in England, the media reported on Monday.

The hidden arrangement of up to 90 huge standing stones formed part of a C-shaped Neolithic arena that bordered a dry valley and faced directly towards the Avon river, The Guardian reported.

Researchers used ground-penetrating radar to image about 30 intact stones measuring up to 4.5m in height. The fragments of 60 more buried stones, or the massive foundation pits in which they stood, revealed the full extent of the monument.

“What we are starting to see is the largest surviving stone monument, preserved underneath a bank, that has ever been discovered in Britain and possibly in Europe,” said Vince Gaffney, an archaeologist at Bradford University who leads the Stonehenge Hidden Landscape project.

“This is archaeology on steroids.”

The stones are thought to have been hauled into position more than 4,500 years ago to form the southern edge of a ritual arena centred on a natural depression. The stones appear to have joined up with a chalk ridge that had been cut to accentuate the natural border.

“We presume it to be a ritual arena of some sort,” said Gaffney.

Images of the buried stones show them lying down, but Gaffney believes they originally stood upright and were pushed over when the site was redeveloped by Neolithic builders.

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscape project has transformed how archaeologists view the ancient site, which sprawls over 4 sq.miles of Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire. The main monument stands at the heart of a landscape rich with burial grounds, pits and chapels.

Last year, researchers found the remains of 17 new chapels and hundreds of other archaeological features scattered across the site.

According to archaeologists, the Stonehenge monument was built anywhere from 3000 B.C to 2000 B.C.

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