Friends — Sorry to take up some much blog-space with my own book, but this is very new and very exciting. The images did not load here, I’ll try to put there somewhere where they will. This release is from the team of archaeologists who made the discovery:
BLUESTONEHENGE: A NEW STONE CIRCLE NEAR STONEHENGE
FIRST CHANCE TO HEAR FROM THE EXPERTS WHO MADE THE DISCOVERY
Archaeologists from Sheffield and other universities have discovered a lost stone circle a mile from Stonehenge, on the west bank of the River Avon.
The stones were removed thousands of years ago but the sizes of the holes in which they stood indicate that this was a circle of bluestones, brought from the Preseli mountains of Wales, 150 miles away. Excavations in August-September 2009 by the Stonehenge Riverside Project uncovered nine stone holes, part of a circle of probably 25 standing stones. (Most of the circle remains unexcavated, preserved for future research, whilst the 2009 excavation has been filled back in.)
The new stone circle is 10m (33 ft) in diameter and was surrounded by a henge – a ditch with an external bank. These standing stones marked the end of the Avenue that leads from the River Avon to Stonehenge, a 1¾-mile long (2.8km) processional route constructed at the end of the Stone Age (the Neolithic period). The outer henge around the stones was built around 2400 BC but arrowheads found in the stone circle indicate that the stones were put up as much as 500 years earlier – they were dragged from Wales to Wiltshire 5,000 years ago.
The builders of the stone circle used deer antlers as pickaxes. Within the next few months, radiocarbon dating of these antler picks will provide more precise dates. These dates will reveal whether the circle was built at the same time that another 56 Welsh bluestones were erected at Stonehenge itself (in the decades after 3000 BC). When the newly discovered circle’s stones were removed by Neolithic people, it is possible that they were dragged along the route of the Avenue to Stonehenge, to be incorporated within its major rebuilding around 2500 BC. Archaeologists know that, after this date, Stonehenge consisted of about 80 Welsh stones and 83 local, sarsen stones. Some of the bluestones that once stood at the riverside probably now stand within the centre of Stonehenge.
Only the radiocarbon dating programme can clarify the sequence of events. In the meantime, the discovery of this unknown stone circle may well be exciting confirmation of the Stonehenge Riverside Project’s theory that the River Avon linked a ‘domain of the living’ – marked by timber circles and houses upstream at the Neolithic village of Durrington Walls (discovered by the Project in 2005) – with a ‘domain of the dead’ marked by Stonehenge and this new stone circle.
There is no evidence that the circle had a particular orientation or even an entrance. Soil that fell into the holes when the stones were removed was full of charcoal, showing that plenty of wood was burned here. Yet this was not a place where anyone lived: the pottery, animal bones, food residues and flint tools used in domestic life during the Stone Age were absent.
Prof. Mike Parker Pearson, director of the project, said: “It could be that Bluestonehenge was where the dead began their final journey to Stonehenge. Not many people know that Stonehenge was Britain’s largest burial ground at that time. Maybe the bluestone circle is where people were cremated before their ashes were buried at Stonehenge itself.”