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A couple take a selfie near the Stonehenge stone circle in Britain. Photo: Reuters

Stonehenge underground? Scientists find ‘remarkable’ ring of ancient pits near famous stone circle

  • Some 20 or more massive shafts forming a circle more than 10 metres in diameter have been uncovered just three kilometres from Stonehenge
  • Academics believe the shafts could mark the boundary of a sacred area or precinct around a circular monument

Archaeologists said on Monday that they have discovered a major prehistoric monument under the earth near Stonehenge that could shed new light on the origins of the mystical stone circle in southwestern England.

Experts from a group of British universities led by the University of Bradford say the site consists of at least 20 huge shafts, more than 10 metres in diameter and 5 metres deep, forming a circle more than 2 kilometres in diameter.

The new find is at Durrington Walls, the site of a Neolithic village about 2 kilometres from Stonehenge,

Researchers say the shafts appear to have been dug around 4,500 years ago, and could mark the boundary of a sacred area or precinct around a circular monument known as the Durrington Walls henge.

Revellers gather at Stonehenge near Salisbury in 2015 to celebrate the longest day of the year. Photo: AP

Richard Bates, of the University of St Andrews School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said the findings – made with remote sensing and sampling – provided “an insight to the past that shows an even more complex society than we could ever imagine.”

University of Bradford archaeologist Vince Gaffney said it was “remarkable” that Stonehenge, one of the most studied archaeological landscapes in the world, could yield such a major new discovery.

“When these pits were first noted it was thought they might be natural features – solution hollows in the chalk,” he said. But geophysical surveys allowed scientists to “join the dots and see there was a pattern on a massive scale.”

Britain is dotted with stone circles build thousands of years ago for reasons that remain mysterious.

Stonehenge is a spiritual home for thousands of druids and mystics. Photo: AP

The most famous is Stonehenge, a huge monument built between 3000 B.C. and 1600 B.C. that is one of Britain’s most popular tourist attractions.

It’s also a spiritual home for thousands of druids and mystics who visit at the summer and winter solstices – though this weekend’s summer solstice celebrations were scuttled by a ban on mass gatherings because of the coronavirus pandemic.