Bigger than Stonehenge?


There’s a new ‘henge’, and it’s bigger, better and older than the one we’ve already got.

Of course, to be strictly accurate, there’s a new finding that suggests there is another ancient monument close to Stonehenge. It’s called Durrington Walls and it’s just up the road. They’ve found it by using specialist state-of-the-art, technology, with that much potential for discovery that it suggests we’re entering into a whole new era in archaeology itself in terms of what we can hope to find.

All sorts of organizations have been involved, ranging from universities to the National Trust and English Heritage. The story’s been reported in national and local newspapers, capturing the imagination. It was also brought to the attention of the British Science Festival this week. So why all the excitement?

Interestingly, unlike Channel 4’s Time Team, it seems the archaeologists involved haven’t had to move a clod of earth. Instead they’ve used ground-penetrating radar ( eat your heart out Tony Robinson ). What they’ve discovered, underneath some earthworks, is a number of large standing stones covering a wide area. Some seem to be still standing and could be up to 4.5 meters high. And it’s not alone. According to recent research the whole area is ‘teeming with previously unseen archaeology’ ( Professor Vincent Gaffney, University of Birmingham ). In other words they’ve never stopped looking round Stonehenge and now they’ve started to find things. Durrington could in fact be older than our more familiar Stonehenge, with computer-simulated images on various websites illustrating the suggested extent of the new site.

No one has yet really decided what Stonehenge was for, but this find appears to lend weight to the argument that it had religious or at least ritualistic purposes. In fact there is some suggestion that this find represents a change of religion or beliefs for the ancient peoples of the time. And just what is a Henge? One of the best explanations – a quick search will take you there – is on the ‘Orkneyjar’ website. Not surprising really, when you consider that Orkney has strong historical links with both Great Britain and Scandinavia, as well as a rich archaeological history.
It’s hard to say what has excited people more – the find itself or the successful use of the new technologies. Their ‘highly efficient prospective methods’ ( UnIversity of Birmingham website ) have almost invented a whole new discipline. Virtual archaeology.

So what are they going to do with all this information? The short answer is to keep going. They hope to map the whole area, and it doesn’t take a great leap of anyone’s imagination to realise that our past can be explored and made clear to us in a whole range of exciting ways. Let’s hope they keep going for a long time to come!

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I'm semi-retired after a successful and much enjoyed career in education. Funnily enough, my last job was as a tutor for OOL. I taught on courses providing professional training for school support staff, as well as A level English Literature and English Literature GCSE. I've had an interesting career, in schools, colleges, adult education, the Arts and a few other bits and bobs. At one stage I was also a local authority inspector. Now I'm a school governor, and am enjoying watching my young grandchildren go through their own first experiences of school. Through these articles I hope to keep you up to date with different aspects of education news – and also to keep you interested!

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