Britain’s most interesting monument just got a whole lot more interesting.
Archaeologists using subsurface imaging have discovered evidence of a circle of wooden posts about the same size as Stonehenge and just 900 meters (2,950 feet) away from it.
The Stonehenge Hidden Landscape Project plans to map features hidden under the surface in an area totaling 14 square kilometers (8.7 sq miles) around the famous monument. The mysterious feature was found only two weeks into the three-year survey.
The team picked up traces of postholes, where heavy wooden poles had once been sunk into the earth. The soil in these holes is of a different density than the undisturbed soil around them and show up on the subsurface imaging. The ring of posts appears to have had two openings opposite one another and was encircled by a ring of pits a meter wide. Archaeologists say it was built about 2,500 BC, about the same time that the builders of Stonehenge switched from using timber to using stone.
Project leader Professor Vince Gaffney of the University of Birmingham said, “When you see that as an archaeologist, you just look at it and think, ‘that’s a henge monument’ – it’s a timber equivalent to Stonehenge. The monument is one of the most studied monuments on Earth but this demonstrates that there is still much more to be found. The presumption was this was just an empty field – now you’ve got a major ceremonial monument looking at Stonehenge”.
The BBC has an interview with Prof. Gaffney and a computer reconstruction of the monument here. His team’s discovery comes just weeks after the start of excavations at Marden Henge, a stone circle ten times bigger than Stonehenge. It’s shaping up to be a good summer for archaeologists!
Image courtesy user Nachosan via Gadling’s flickr pool.
Archaeologists in the London borough of Shoreditch have uncovered the city’s first theatre, and the first that staged Shakespeare’s plays.
Named simply “The Theatre”, it opened in 1576 and the game is afoot to build a new theatre on the site. The Theatre Appeal is raising money for the project and plans to install glass floors so visitors can admire the original Elizabethan floor and foundations.
The Theatre was disassembled in 1598 and the beams used to build Shakespeare’s more famous venue, the Globe. The reason for this move was that the landowner had a dispute with Shakespeare’s troupe and threatened to kick them out. So the Bard and friends waited until the landowner was away for Christmas, took the building apart, and spirited it to a new location.
A reconstructed Globe offers daily performances on the south bank of the Thames. The faithful reproduction gives you the feel for the original without the toothless peasants, dead cats, and outbreaks of the plague. You can even buy cut-rate tickets for the “groundling” section, a standing-room-only area in front of the stage. The performances are of uniformly high quality. Having lived in London for a year, I put it on my top ten list of things for visitors to do. A reconstruction of The Theatre would give Shakespeare lovers a double-dose of the The Bard.
Public domain image courtesy Wikimedia Commons.
Two painted tombs have been discovered at the ancient Egyptian necropolis of Saqqara, twenty miles south of Cairo.
The rock-hewn tombs belong to a royal official named Shendwa and his son Khonsu. Both men lived in the Sixth Dynasty (2345-2181 BC) of the Old Kingdom. The pharaohs of this dynasty are buried at or near Saqqara. The pyramid of Pepi II is shown here, although it isn’t in the best of condition.
The find comes just a month after the tomb of a royal scribe was discovered at Saqqara and brings further attention to an important archaeological site many tourists miss. Saqqara is home to the oldest pyramid built of dressed stone–the Step Pyramid of Djoser constructed from 2667 to 2648 BC. Earlier pyramids made of brick are known from Mesopotamia and can now be found in modern Iraq and Syria.
Image courtesy Jon Bodsworth via Egypt Archive. Check out the site for some amazing photos of some of Saqqara’s painted tombs.