Stonehenge's Oldest Known Settlement Is Revealed

But it's already in danger thanks to tunnel plans
By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2014 2:14 PM CST
Stonehenge's Oldest Known Settlement Is Revealed
President Barack Obama visits Stonehenge after leaving the NATO summit in Newport, Wales, Friday, Sept. 5, 2014.   (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

Researchers are exploring a settlement near Stonehenge dating to about 4000 BC, making it the area's oldest, the Telegraph reports. The Blick Mead encampment, as it's known, is from the Mesolithic period and was likely home to hunter-gatherers who headed to the spot before Britain became an island. It's the "latest dated Mesolithic encampment ever found in the UK," says archaeologist David Jacques, and findings, including apparent structures and evidence of feasting, mean that "British pre-history may have to be rewritten." Another expert calls the encampment Stonehenge's greatest revelation in 60 years. "Was Stonehenge built in part as a monument to the ancestors from the deepest part of Britain’s past?" Jacques wonders, per Heritage Daily. "Blick Mead could explain what archaeologists have been searching for for centuries": the real story behind the site.

But the encampment is already in trouble—from plans for a highway that's actually intended to make Stonehenge a nicer place to visit. A nearly two-mile tunnel aims to reduce a traffic bottleneck in the area, the Guardian reports. But it could also obscure history. Prime minister David Cameron, who announced the plans, "is interested in re-election in 140 days; we are interested in discovering how our ancestors lived 6,000 years ago," says Jacques. The site "connects the early hunter-gatherer groups returning to Britain after the Ice Age to the Stonehenge area all the way through to the Neolithic in the late fifth millennium BC," he notes, and "our only chance to find out about the earliest chapter of Britain’s history could be wrecked if the tunnel goes ahead." Recent reports also pointed to a "super henge" underneath the stones. (More Stonehenge stories.)

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