An extraordinary hidden complex of archaeological monuments has been uncovered around Stonehenge using hi-tech methods of scanning below the Earth’s surface.
The finds, dating back 6,000 years, include evidence of 17 previously unknown wooden or stone structures as well as dozens of burial mounds which have been mapped in minute detail.
Most of the monuments are merged into the landscape and invisible to the casual eye.
The four-year study, the largest geophysical survey ever undertaken, covered an area of 12 square kilometres and penetrated to a depth of three metres.
British project leader Professor Vincent Gaffney, from the University of Birmingham, said: “Stonehenge is the most iconic archaeological monument, possibly along with the pyramids, on the planet.
“However, the idea of what Stonehenge is for people is rather strange, especially if you walk around it. It sits there in splendid isolation.
“For the past four years we’ve been looking at this amazing monument to see what was around it, what was actually within its landscape.
“Most of the area around Stonehenge isterra incognita. It has never been explored and everything we think about Stonehenge is on the basis of what we don’t know about it.
“This project has revealed that the area around Stonehenge is teeming with previously unseen archaeology and that the application of new technology can transform how archaeologists and the wider public understand one of the best-studied landscapes on Earth.
“New monuments have been revealed, as well as new types of monument that have previously never been seen by archaeologists. All of this information has been placed within a single digital map, which will guide how Stonehenge and its landscape are studied in the future.
“This is going to change how we view Stonehenge. It is not yet another find from Stonehenge, it’s a fundamental step forward in the way we understand it.”