Highways England have been accused of accidentally drilling a hole into a 6,000-year-old structure near Stonehenge by archaeologists.
Work is being done ahead of a tunnel building process at the site. Drilling has started at Blick Mead and the archaeologists are accusing engineers of making a three-metre-deep hole (10ft) in a man-made structure consisting of bone and flint.
Highways England have deny any damage has been done.
Both Highways England and archaeologists met at the site on Thursday to discuss the matter.
Experts were previously fearful that the work to build a tunnel and flyover in the area would impact on water levels, which could damage items preserved in waterlogged ground. Highways England have promised to monitor water levels at the site.
The supposedly damaged platform preserved the hoof prints of an aurochs, giant prehistoric cattle which are now extinct.
David Jacques, a senior research fellow at the University of Buckingham, told the Daily Telegraph: “This is a travesty. We took great care to excavate this platform and the aurochs’ hoofprints. We believe hunters considered this area to be a sacred place even before Stonehenge. These monster cows – double the size of normal cattle – provided food for 300 people, so were revered.
“If the tunnel goes ahead the water table will drop and all the organic remains will be destroyed. It may be that there are footprints here which would be the earliest tangible signs of life at Stonehenge. If the remains aren’t preserved we may never be able to understand why Stonehenge was built.”
Highways England say they do not know of any damage caused and met the professor on Thursday.
A Highways England spokesperson said: “We do not have any evidence that our monitoring, the location of which we shared with Professor David Jacques, has caused any damage to the site and we have asked for further clarification of this.
“At Prof Jacques’ request, we have been monitoring water conditions at Blick Mead to demonstrate that the scheme will have no impact on the site. We asked for input on the locations of water monitoring stations in early November.
“We have adhered to guidelines in carrying out the work, with an archaeologist on site, and with due care being exercised at all times. “We met with Prof Jacques today and we have also been discussing areas for further testing at the Blick Mead site.”