Archaeologists have unearthed thousands of pits below Stonehenge that are believed to have been used by prehistoric hunters.
Some of the pits are more than 10,000 years old. One was 13 feet wide and 6½ feet deep, making it the largest of its kind in northwest Europe, University of Birmingham and Ghent University researchers said.
The entire site dates from between 8200 B.C. and 7800 B.C., revealing some of the earliest activity of hunter-gatherers around Stonehenge in the pit from the Mesolithic period, which followed the last Ice Age. At the time the largest known pit was dug, the famously enigmatic stone circle had yet to be erected.
To locate the buried site, researchers used a technique known as electromagnetic induction, which uses the electrical conductivity of soil to assess data.
The discovery was made using a combination of traditional archaeological methods and newer technologies. An electromagnetic induction survey, which transmits an electric current through the earth to assess information beneath the soil, was conducted in the process. This was the first such comprehensive survey undertaken at Stonehenge.
Paul Garwood, senior lecturer in prehistory at the University of Birmingham, told the BBC that the pits that had been discovered were “not a snapshot of one moment in time.”
“The traces we see in our data span millennia, as indicated by the 7,000-year timeframe between the oldest and most recent prehistoric pits we’ve excavated,” he said. “From early hunter-gatherers to later Bronze Age inhabitants of farms and field systems, the archaeology we’re detecting is the result of the complex and ever-changing occupation of the landscape.”