It has been dubbed the new "Superhenge." Following five years of research using cutting edge ground-penetrating scanners, archeologists have discovered that just two miles from Stonehenge, Britain's world famous neolithic monument, lies another collection of standing stones around 12 times the size.
Buried under the ground for thousands of years, the massive monument comprises a 300 meter (328 yard) long horseshoe-shaped line of more than 90 stones measuring up to 4.5 meters high, and is thought to be the remains of a prehistoric temple or "ritual arena."
The stones were discovered by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, a joint initiative between academics at Bradford and Birmingham universities in the UK and Austria's Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, using sophisticated radar equipment that "x-rayed" the earth underneath Durrington Walls — itself one of Europe's largest henge monuments and the original "superhenge."
Archeologists are now coming to see Durrington Walls which is almost a mile in circumference and was built around the same time as Stonehenge between 2,500 and 2,700BC "as a gigantic ceremonial complex," reported the Financial Times.
"We're looking at one of the largest stone monuments in Europe and it has been under our noses for something like 4,000 years," said Professor Vincent Gaffney of Bradford University, co-director of the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project. "We don't think there's anything quite like this anywhere else in the world. This is completely new and the scale is extraordinary."
Researchers believe the stones were deliberately toppled over and buried as part of a religious revolution that Stonehenge itself could have been part of, according to the Independent.
The huge horseshoe-shaped temple appears to have been aligned with a prominent natural landmark known as Beacon Hill around three miles away — the same hill that another much smaller monument is aligned with.
Over the course of 100 years, these two monuments were apparently decommissioned and replaced by Stonehenge and Durrington Walls, conceivably as people switched from worshipping features of the landscape to worshipping the sun, said the newspaper.
"The extraordinary scale, detail and novelty of the evidence produced by the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project… is changing fundamentally our understanding of Stonehenge and the world around it," said Paul Garwood, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology at the University of Birmingham, and the principal prehistorian on the project. "Everything written previously about the Stonehenge landscape and the ancient monuments within it will need to be re-written."