Stonehenge, seemingly one of the world’s most mysterious archaeological sites, appeared to contain at least one more secret last year when researchers found a series of pits dug into the ground nearby that dated back to the Neolithic era. Those features are, in fact, human-made, according to new research.
The Guardian reports that, contrary to theories posed by some experts, the pits are not natural. At the very least, given their uniform size (30 feet across and 16 feet deep), they appear to have had some distinct purpose.
“We’ve now looked at nearly half of them and they’re all the same,” Vincent Gaffney, an archaeologist at Bradford University who headed the new research, told the Guardian. “So effectively this really does say this is one enormous structure. It may have evolved from a natural feature, but we haven’t located that. So it’s the largest prehistoric structure found in Britain.”
In 2020, Gaffney’s team also revealed that they had discovered something new during their research: a mile-wide ring beneath the earth that surrounds Stonehenge and the pits. Using technology that could track where the ground had been disturbed across the centuries, he and his researchers surmised that the ring may have actually been part of an informal engineering system. Using this geological ring, the builders could count their paces to determine the uniform shape of the pits.
What these pits may have signified remains an open question. A common theory is that Stonehenge was believed to be imbued with cosmological significance for the people who built it, though it’s not clear if the pits in any way aided in that. One archaeologist last year simply labeled them “blobs in the ground.” For now, the pits remain another odd find at a strange site.