Archaeological detectives discover ‘secret square’ beneath world-famous Avebury stone circle

Posted by ap507 at Jun 29, 2017 12:05 AM |
New archaeological survey reveals unique square megalithic monument at the heart of the World Heritage Site
Archaeological detectives discover ‘secret square’ beneath world-famous Avebury stone circle

Dr Mark Gillings

Archaeologists have found a striking and apparently unique square monument beneath the world famous Avebury stone circle in Wiltshire.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site, cared for by the National Trust, was built over several hundred years in the 3rd millennium BC and contains three stone circles – including the largest stone circle in Europe which is 330m across and originally comprised around 100 huge standing stones.

A research team led by the University of Leicester and University of Southampton used a combination of soil resistance survey and Ground-Penetrating Radar to investigate the stone circle.

A reconstruction of the Southern Inner Circle
A reconstruction of the Southern Inner Circle
Dr Mark Gillings, Academic Director and Reader in Archaeology in our School of Archaeology and Ancient History, said: “Our research has revealed previously unknown megaliths inside the world-famous Avebury stone circle. We have detected and mapped a series of prehistoric standing stones that were subsequently hidden and buried, along with the positions of others likely destroyed during the 17th and 18th centuries. Together, these reveal a striking and apparently unique square megalithic monument within the Avebury circles that has the potential to be one of the very earliest structures on this remarkable site.”

The archaeologists who undertook the work think the construction of the square megalithic setting might have commemorated and monumentalised the location of an early Neolithic house – perhaps part of a founding settlement – subsequently used as the centre point of the Southern Inner Circle. At the time of excavation in 1939 the house was erroneously considered by Keiller to be a medieval cart shed.

The research has been widely covered by media outlets, including the BBC, The Telegraph, The Independent, The Times, The Daily Mail and more.