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Archaeologists find prehistoric underground structures near Stonehenge

Click to play video '‘Astonishing’ circle of pits found near Stonehenge' ‘Astonishing’ circle of pits found near Stonehenge
WATCH: Archaeologists have made an exciting new discovery near Stonehenge, one of Britain's most famous landmarks.

A recent discovery has opened up new possibilities for understanding the meaning and origin of Stonehenge.

A team of archeologists from several universities discovered a two-kilometre wide circle of underground pits surrounding an ancient settlement, Durrington Walls, near the tourist attraction.

The new site is located about 3.2 kilometres northeast of Stonehenge, and researchers believe it could date back to 4,500 years ago, Reuters reports.

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“As the place where the builders of Stonehenge lived and feasted, Durrington Walls is key to unlocking the story of the wider Stonehenge landscape,” said archaeologist Nick Snashall of the National Trust, the body that runs the Stonehenge site.

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“This astonishing discovery offers us new insights into the lives and beliefs of our Neolithic ancestors.”

The shafts, according to the report published in ScienceDaily, are up to 10-metres wide and five-metres deep and surrounding the Durrington Walls henge, one of Britain’s largest henge monuments, and the famous, smaller prehistoric circle at Woodhenge.

A map of the newly discovered shafts, forming a ring around Durrington Walls and other Neolithic sites.
A map of the newly discovered shafts, forming a ring around Durrington Walls and other Neolithic sites. EDINA Digimap Ordnance Survey Service

It’s believed that the newly discovered circle marks a boundary around Durrington.

“It is thought the features, along with an internal post line, could have guided people towards the religious sites and warned others not to cross the boundary,” the report reads.

So far, the research group has found up to 20 shafts but believe there may have been more than 30 originally.

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The discovery was made without the need for excavations, using remote sensing technology and sampling, Reuters says. The sophisticated way the pits are positioned suggests that the early inhabitants of Britain used a tally or counting system to track pacing across long distances.

Vince Gaffney, a professor of archaeology at the University of Bradford and one of the project’s lead researchers, said the discovery demonstrated “the capacity and desire of Neolithic communities to record their cosmological belief systems in ways, and at a scale, that we had never previously anticipated.”

meaghan.wray@globalnews.ca