Archaeologists have reportedly discovered a new series of massive pits in the area around Stonehenge, which likely date back to the Neolithic Era — between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago. Scientists are still trying to determine details about the new site, and whether or not it is related to Stonehenge itself. Even without any particulars, however, the discovery is an achievement on its own.
The newly-uncovered Neolithic pits were found by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes team, according to a report by CBS News. Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes is a cooperative effort combining the efforts of several British universities. They found about 20 new pits, which formed a circle around another known archaeological site in southern England called the "Durrington Walls Superhenge" — about two miles away from Stonehenge itself. Each pit was about 60 feet across and 15 feet deep, judging by the archaeologists' high-tech excavation techniques.
Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project announces discovery of huge pit circle enclosing Durrington henge. #stonehenge @eh_stonehenge Open Access journal @IntarchEditor https://t.co/BQRVE6lUgD Click to watch animation. pic.twitter.com/d4VbztGNYd— European Association of Archaeologists (@archaeologyEAA) June 22, 2020
The new discovery is being called the "Late Neolithic Pit Structure" for now, though it may acquire a name like the Durrington Walls eventually. All of this is close to Stonehenge and other massive structures, as seen in a digital map created by the European Association of Archaeologists.
While it is not the first new site around Stonehenge to be discovered, the Hidden Landscapes team says that this new circle of pits carries some serious implications for ancient English civilization. It implies the existence of "an even more complex society than we could ever imagine," said Dr. Richard Bates in an interview with BBC News. "Clearly sophisticated practices demonstrate that the people were so in tune with natural events to an extent that we can barely conceive in the modern world," Bates said.
One’s immediate reaction to this is disbelief, yet however hard you try to take it apart it stands up. Exactly when the pits were dug is not clear and their function is a mystery. More Excavation needed, but congrats all round https://t.co/Y8hfLa41Io— Mike Pitts (@pittsmike) June 22, 2020
The research on the Late Neolithic Pit Structure so far has been published in the scientific journal Internet Archaeology. Excavations so far have turned up flint and bone fragments near the bottom of the pits, presumably used as tools. The paper notes: "The degree of similarity across the 20 features [pits] identified suggests that they could have formed part of a circuit of large pits around Durrington Walls."
Researchers also found evidence that the pits had been "recut" several times during their use, suggesting that the site may have remained in use by humans for thousands of years — perhaps "through to the Middle Bronze Age." Archaeologists are now musing about this discovery on social media as they work to decipher all of its implications for humanity's ancient history.