This Massive Site Might Just Put Stonehenge to Shame

Archaeologists excavating henge 10 times larger than its neighbor
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 7, 2015 9:39 AM CDT
This Massive Site Might Just Put Stonehenge to Shame
Marden Henge is now masked by farmland.   (English Heritage)

You think Stonehenge is impressive? Archaeologists in Britain are excavating a monument ten times larger than the iconic structure, though it appears to the naked eye to be little more than farmland. A henge is a circular earthwork, and the one in question is Marden Henge, which sits a few miles north of Stonehenge in Wiltshire. National Geographic reports that roughly 4,500 years ago it featured 10-foot-tall earthen berms that encompassed some 40 acres. The Guardian writes that the henge was "far larger than the Avebury or Stonehenge circles, and too large for any imaginable practical use." But over the ages Marden Henge's berms have "slumped" and farmers have worked the land, and archaeologists have gravitated to the more breathtaking Stonehenge. Until now.

Jim Leary of the University of Reading has just kicked off a three-year study of the site; his excavations (he worked at the site in 2010, too) are the only ones to have occurred there in nearly 50 years. He hopes the berms will help explain the "insane, utterly unsustainable" construction boom that led to Marden Henge and four other nearby Neolithic monuments, including Stonehenge. "Not nearly enough attention has been paid to the archaeology of the fertile valley in between these places," says Leary. So far he's found the remains of a 4,000-year-old teen wearing an amber necklace just outside Marden Henge, per the BBC; fancy arrowheads; and a stone building within the henge containing the bones of at least 13 pigs, suggesting a huge feast was held there. "For all the attention that has been lavished on Stonehenge over the years, we may well find out that Marden was where it was really at during the Neolithic," he says. (There's a giant "super henge" under Stonehenge.)

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