New excavations near Stonehenge have uncovered hearths, timbers and other remains of what archaeologists say was probably the village of workers who erected the monoliths on Salisbury Plain in England.For anyone who loves ancient sites as I do, that area of England is a gold mine. This is a really exciting development.
The archaeologists announced yesterday that the 4,600-year-old ruins appear to form the largest Neolithic village ever found in Britain. The houses at the site known as Durrington Walls were constructed in the same period that Stonehenge, less than two miles away, was built as a religious center, presumably for worshipers of the sun and for their ancestors.
Mike Parker Pearson, a leader of the excavations from the University of Sheffield, said the discoveries last summer supported the emerging recognition that the ring of standing stones and earthworks at Stonehenge was part of a much larger religious complex.
In a telephone conference conducted by the National Geographic Society, Dr. Parker Pearson said a circle of ditches and earthen banks at Durrington Walls enclosed concentric rings of huge timber posts, "basically a wooden version of Stonehenge."
The excavations exposed not only the timber circle but also a roadway paved with stone leading to the Avon River, about 500 feet away, which was similar to a river road from Stonehenge. The evidence, Dr. Parker Pearson said, "shows us these two monuments were complementary" and that "Stonehenge was just one-half of a larger complex."
I was fortunate enough to visit Stonehenge when you could still walk amongst and touch the stones. The next time I was there, with Allan, it was all roped off. We also went to Avesbury and other sites on Salisbury Plain, and it was still great. But there's nothing like standing among such ruins, placing your hands on them, feeilng that connection with the distant past.
If you ever have an opportunity to visit Ireland, don't miss a trip to Newgrange, a neolithic passage tomb, older than Stonehenge, older than the Egyptian pyramids, that you can walk inside. Newgrange is in Ireland's Boyne Valley, home to many other neolithic sites. Like Stonehenge, Newgrange is oriented towards winter solstice, but in a very complex way.
Every time I see stories like this, I want to take off for somewhere. Now I want to go back to England to see this unearthed village. This wanderlust plagues me.