Giant pits have been revealed below the view of Stonehenge that the site was a special hunting ground for the Mesolithic people

Long before the ancient British built the mysterious monoliths of Stonehenge at Salisbury Plain, the area was a hunting hot spot where Neolithic people hunted animals, including, researchers now believe, oxen, an extinct type of livestock.

Researchers from the University of Birmingham and the University of Ghent have unveiled hundreds of what appear to be large prehistoric pits dug to hunt large game such as oxen, red deer, and wild boars. They also found thousands of smaller holes in the Earth.

Some of the pits, carved into chalk bedrock, were large enough to carry about 165 tons of solid chalk – an impressive feat for antler shovels and stone tools.

“The new discoveries we have made show that the prehistoric landscape of Stonehenge was more complex than we thought. Our work indicates that Britain’s most famous archaeological area still has many mysteries to unravel,” said Paul Garwood, first prehistoric lecturer. at the University of Birmingham, for does not depend on.

Excavation of what appears to be a prehistoric fishing hole near Stonehenge. Photo courtesy of the University of Birmingham.

The study was published this week in the journal . Journal of Archaeological Scienceswhich included an electromagnetic induction survey of the Stonehenge landscape – the largest use of this detection system, which relies on the electrical conductivity of the soil, ever implemented.

“The geophysical survey allows us to visualize what is buried beneath the surface of the entire landscape,” Philippe de Smed, assistant professor at the University of Ghent, said in a statement. “The maps we create provide a high-resolution display of the diversity of subsurface soils that can be targeted with unprecedented precision.”

Based on the resulting geophysical data, the team performed computer-generated analyzes of the thousands of features detected beneath the Earth’s surface. The team drilled 60 archaeological geological wells and targeted 20 excavation sites – the first time that the results of an electromagnetic induction survey have been confirmed on Earth.

“By combining new geophysical surveying techniques with micro-drilling and excavation, the team has uncovered some of the oldest evidence of human activity yet discovered in the Stonehenge landscape,” said Nick Snachal, an archaeologist at the Stonehenge World Heritage Site. “The discovery of the largest known crater from the early Mesolithic in northwestern Europe shows that this was a special place for hunter-gatherer societies thousands of years before the first stones were erected.”

Stonehenge.  Photography by Chris Schulz, Pexels.

Stonehenge. Photography by Chris Schulz, Pexels.

Archaeologists have conducted excavations in six of the 400 large craters, including the Mesolithic crater, which dates to between 8200 and 7800 BC – about 5,000 years before Stonehenge was built. But the use of these pits by the ancients spanned thousands of years, suggesting that the area was a popular hunting ground not only through generations, but through geological ages.

“What we’re seeing is not a snapshot of a single moment in time,” Garwood added. The traces we see in our data span thousands of years, as evidenced by the 7,000-year time frame between the oldest and most recent prehistoric digs we excavated. From the early Holocene hunter-gatherers to the inhabitants of farms and field systems in the later Bronze Age, the archaeology we discover is the result of the complex and changing occupation of the landscape.”

Another recent study was published in PLUS ONEindicates that Stonehenge was erected in an open forest where large herbivores graze, in an area that was familiar to both Neolithic hunters and gatherers and the Neolithic monument builders who followed it.

Samuel Hudson, a researcher at the University of Southampton in the UK, led research at Blick Mead, an early hunting and gathering site on the edge of the World Heritage Site Stonehenge, testing samples of ancient animal remains, pollen and DNA for a better understanding. Prehistoric landscapes and how hunters from the Middle Stone Age might have experienced it – although it doesn’t explain why they chose to build Stonehenge there.

“The repeated occupation of this one area over thousands of years,” Hudson said. Ha’aretz“indicates the presence of elements from the environment that made it attractive.”

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