Archaeologists have unearthed a secret square beneath one of the world’s most famous neolithic stone circles.
Work by a group of researchers at the Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire has found evidence of a whole new set of megaliths, this time taking the shape of a quadrangle.
Dr Mark Gillings, Academic Director in Archaeology at the University of Leicester, said: “Our research has revealed previously unknown megaliths inside the world-famous Avebury stone circle.
“We have detected and mapped a series of prehistoric standing stones that were subsequently hidden and buried, along with the positions of others likely destroyed during the 17th and 18th centuries.”
“Together, these reveal a striking and apparently unique square megalithic monument within the Avebury circles that has the potential to be one of the very earliest structures on this remarkable site.”
The findings were made by a team from the Universities of Leicester, Southampton and Cambridge, the National Trust and Allen Environmental Archaeology using both ground-penetrating radar and soil resistance surveys.
Avebury, a Unesco World Heritage Site owned by the National Trust, has been fascinating archaeologists since the 17th century.
The well-documented stone circle is the largest in the world and would have comprised up to 100 standing stones when it was first built between 3,000 and 2400 B.C.
It is unusual not only because of its size – 330m across – but also because it has a village built inside it. Within the circle are two inner circles, all made of local sarsen stone.
Excavations by archaeologist Alexander Keiller in the 1930s revealed the first evidence of what is now thought to be the square but work was cut short by the outbreak of the Second World War.
Dr Joshua Pollard from the University of Southampton said: “Megalithic circles are well known from the time when Avebury was built during the late Neolithic (3rd millennium BC), but square megalithic settings of this scale and complexity are unheard of.”
The team of archaeologists think the construction of the square megalithic setting might have commemorated the location of an early Neolithic house – perhaps part of a founding settlement – subsequently used as the centre point of the Southern Inner Circle.
If correct, it may help explain why the Avebury monument was built in the first place.
“It goes to show how much more is still to be revealed at Avebury if we ask the right questions”, said Dr Nick Snashall, National Trust archaeologist at Avebury.
Originally written and published by iNews