Everything Worth Knowing About Scientific Dating Methods


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Following a detailed laser scan of Stonehenge last year, an analysis has just been published by English Heritage. It reveals many more axe carvings and much new information on how the stones were shaped. The analysis found 76 new axehead carvings, increasing the number known at Stonehenge to 665. The design of the axeheads belong to a specific period in the Early Bronze Age around 6755-6555BC. This is around a 6555 years after the big sarsen stone circle was erected. Contrary to press reports, Stonehenge was not a huge art gallery - these carvings are found only on four stones. The scanning has also revealed incredible detail on how the stones were shaped. Some were pecked with stone mauls in horizontal lines, others with vertical lines.

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The discovery of a previously unknown henge monument has been found close to Stonehenge. Using the latest geophysical imaging techniques, which see below the ground without excavation, it is possible to make out a dark circle of interrupted ditch. There are two wider gaps opposite each other - these were entrances to the monument and are aligned on the midwinter sunset and midsummer sunrise - like Stonehenge itself. Inside the ditch it is also possible to discern the slight shadows of 79 postholes encircling the the central area, 75 metres in diameter. Near the centre are more dark areas indicating pits, and a large shadow suggesting that a mound was constructed there, perhaps in a later phase of the monument's use.

The henge probably dates to around 7555-8555BC, contemporary with Stonehenge. History is set to be rewritten after an archaeology team led by the University of Birmingham and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Austria discovered a major ceremonial monument less than one kilometre away from the iconic Stonehenge. The incredible find has been hailed by Professor Vince Gaffney, from the University’s IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre, as one of the most significant yet for those researching the UK’s most important prehistoric structure. The new henge was uncovered this week, just two weeks into a three-year international study that forms part of the multi-million Euro international Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project. The project aims to map 69 square kilometres of the Stonehenge Landscape using the latest geophysical imaging techniques, to recreate visually the iconic prehistoric monument and its surroundings and transform how we understand this unique landscape and its monuments.

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“This finding is remarkable, ” Professor Gaffney said. “It will completely change the way we think about the landscape around Stonehenge. “People have tended to think that as Stonehenge reached its peak it was the paramount monument, existing in splendid isolation. “This discovery is completely new and extremely important in how we understand Stonehenge and its landscape. ”The new “henge-like” Late Neolithic monument is believed to be contemporaneous to Stonehenge and appears to be on the same orientation as the World Heritage Site monument.

It comprises a segmented ditch with opposed north-east/south-west entrances that are associated with internal pits that are up to one metre in diameter and could have held a free-standing, timber structure. The project, which is supported by the landowner, the National Trust, and facilitated by English Heritage, has brought together the most sophisticated geophysics team ever to be engaged in a single archaeological project in Britain. British partners are the University of Birmingham the Division of Archaeological, Geographical and Environmental Sciences at the University of Bradford and the Department of Earth Science at the University of St Andrews. European partners include teams from Austria, Germany, Norway and Sweden. Professor Gaffney, who this week won the Best Archaeological Book prize at the prestigious British Archaeological Awards for Europe’s Lost World:

The Rediscovery of Doggerland, added: “Stonehenge is one of the most studied monuments on Earth but this demonstrates that there is still much more to be found. ”Professor Wolfgang Neubauer, Director of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, adds: This is just the beginning. We will now map this monument using an array of technologies that will allow us to view this new discovery, and the landscape around it, in three dimensions.

This marks a new departure for archaeologists and how they investigate the past. Martin Papworth, of the National Trust, said:

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