The circle, which is nearly 2 km in diameter, contains at least 20 large pits, showing the impressive construction techniques of the Neolithic period.
Archaeologists spot traces of a Neolithic structure surrounding Durrington Walls, an ancient stone structure just 3km southeast of Stonehenge. They found at least 20 holes 10m in diameter and 5m deep, arranged in a circle of diameter up to 1.9km. The new study appears in the journal Internet Archeology on June 21.
Giant circle circle surrounds Durrington Walls. (Photo: CNN).
Previously, these holes were thought to be sinkholes or reservoirs. However, the similarities between them motivated the scientists to study more closely. The aerial survey, which combines technologies such as ground-based radar and magnetic field measurement, reveals the 4,500-year-old circular structure.
"The area around Stonehenge is one of the most well-studied archaeological sites in the world. It's impressive that the application of new technology can still reveal such a great prehistoric structure. This is much bigger than any similar prehistoric building we know, at least in the UK, " said Vincent Gaffney, the archaeologist involved in the study.
Because the Durrington Walls is located at the center of a giant pit circle , the researchers think this circle is the boundary surrounding the land that the ancients considered sacred. Stonehenge's position relates to the summer solstice and the winter solstice, reflecting the sphere of influence of the Sun. Meanwhile, the newly discovered pit circle may indicate an earlier understanding of more cosmic phenomena.
In addition to Durrington Walls, the pit circle also surrounds the Larkhill stone work, built 1,500 years before Stonehenge. The team of experts did not know the circle of holes used to guide the way or prevent the ancients from accessing the stone works. However, it shows that the stone structures in the area are part of a complex cultural and spiritual tradition.
The new finding shows that the Neolithic population in the UK was very developed and could achieve great achievements in construction techniques. The researchers said that digging such large and deep holes with rudimentary tools was as impressive as arranging giant blocks of rock.