People were gathering near the site of Stonehenge at least a thousand years before the monumental structure was built, a new archaeological find suggests, contrary to assumptions that the area had been largely uninhabited.
A lot of work has been done in the Stonehenge region over the past twelve months, with scientists revealing they’d found 15 structures buried around the neolithic monument, plus evidence that its inner ring was once a perfect circle.
Now researchers from Britain’s University of Buckingham have uncovered animal bones, flint tools and charcoal samples from a site in Blick Mead, about 2 km (1.5 miles) from the Stonehenge monument. Having dated the charcoal, the team says the remains were left at the site in 4,000 BC, so way before the idea of Stonehenge was even conceived of. Archaeologists think Stonehenge was put together some time between 3,000 and 1,500 BC.
“British pre-history may have to be rewritten,” lead excavator David Jacques said in a press release. “This is the latest-dated Mesolithic encampment ever found in the UK. [The] Blick Mead site connects the early hunter gatherer groups returning to Britain after the Ice Age to the Stonehenge area all the way through to the Neolithic in the late 5th Millennium B.C.”
So, what this find means, says Evan Andrews at History.com, is that this could be evidence that hunter-gatherer groups had settled in the Stonehenge region of Britain when it was still connected to the European continent.
The find goes against the widely held assumption that the area around Stonehenge had been pretty much uninhabited before the colossal structure was erected. Archaeologists now suspect that the area was a buzzing meeting place, sitting comfortably beside a natural fresh water resource - the River Avon.
Evidence of group eating was uncovered at Blick Mead, including the bones of huge extinct cattle called aurochs. Perhaps a thousand years of feasting, resting and socialising at the site eventually led to a group of people wanting to erect giant stone structures as a tribute to their ancestors, who also feasted, rested and socialised in the same place.
This is not the first time artefacts have been discovered at the site of Blick Mead - the site has proven to be the gift that keeps on giving for archaeologists, as Andrews explains at History.com:
"A 2013 dig led by Jacques uncovered thousands of tools and established the nearby town of Amesbury as the oldest continually habited site in England. According to Jacques, these discoveries link the encampment to hunter-gatherer groups that migrated to Britain after the Ice Age - a time when England was still connected to the European continent by a landmass known as Doggerland.
'The site is the repository of the earliest British stories,' he told The Times, 'connecting a time when the country was joined to the mainland to it becoming the British Isles for the first time.’”
Unfortunately, instead of being wholly excited about the discovery, Jacques and his team must now fight to secure the safety of the site, the longevity of which is now threatened by an underground road tunnel planned for the Stonehenge region. According to Andrews, the team is worried that the tunnel could disrupt the water table of the area and lead to severe site damage.
“Our only chance to find out about the earliest chapter of Britain’s history could be wrecked if the tunnel goes ahead,” Jacques said in a statement last month. “[British Prime Minister David Cameron] is interested in re-election in 140 days-we are interested in discovering how our ancestors lived 6,000 years ago.”