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Archaeologists uncover host of new monuments around Stonehenge

The new digital map covers an area of 12 square km (7.5 miles) Photo: University of Birmingham

Archaologists have uncovered some of the secrets of Stonehenge by making the most detailed map of the surrounding area ever created.

The digital map covers a vast area - equivalent to 1,250 football pitches - and even includes objects underground to a depth of three metres.

It has helped researchers discover 17 new shrines surrounding Stonehenge, and shed new light on a 'super henge' comprising up to 60 stone or timber pillars.

The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, led by the University of Birmingham, has also uncovered dozens of previously unknown burial mounds and monuments that are invisible on the surface.

Researchers used an array of innovative techniques to penetrate the ground, including advanced metal detectors, ground-penetrating radar, electromagnetic sensors and lasers.

Among the discoveries were the remains of a 33-metre timber building that may have been used for ritual burials some 6,000 years ago.

At the Durrington Walls site, which lies about two miles north-east of Stonehenge, investigators found evidence of large stones or timber posts suggesting a similar, albeit much larger, structure to Stonehenge.

Archaeologists used new techniques to analyse the landscape underground Credit: University of Birmingham

Project leader Professor Vincent Gaffney said the map reveals a "highly theatrical arrangement" of monuments and burial mounds positioned carefully within the landscape.

He said the new techniques used will open up an new era for the study of Stonehenge and its surrounding area:

This project has revealed that the area around Stonehenge is teeming with previously unseen archaeology and that the application of new technology can transform how archaeologists and the wider public understand one of the best-studied landscapes on Earth.

New monuments have been revealed, as well as new types of monument that have previously never been seen by archaeologists. All of this information has been placed within a single digital map, which will guide how Stonehenge and its landscape are studied in the future.

– Professor Vincent Gaffney, University of Birmingham