Stonehendge stood at the heart of a sprawling landscape of chapels, burial mounds, massive pits and ritual shrines, according to an unprecedented survey of the ancient grounds.
Researchers uncovered 17 new chapels and hundreds of archaeological features around the neolithic standing stones on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire, including forms of monuments that have never been seen before.
Brought together for the first time in a digital map of the historic site, the discoveries transform how archaeologists view a landscape that was reshaped by generations for hundreds of years after the first stones were erected around 3100BC.
Researchers on the surrounding landscape project spent four years surveying 12 sq km of land around Stonehenge. They covered much of the ground on quad bikes hooked up to trailers carrying an array of technologies to detect structures hidden beneath the ground.
Using ground-penetrating radar and other equipment, they located two massive pits in a 3km-long monument called the Cursus that predates Stonehenge and lies to the north. The pits appear to form astronomical alignments, Gaffney said. On midsummer's day the eastern pit's alignment with the rising sun, and the western pit's alignment at sunset, intersect at the point where Stonehenge was built 400 years later.