Mysterious monument found next to Stonehenge

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.

Lucy, the First Human, Is on Tour

Lucy, the first known human, is on tour. Her bones made a debut on Friday at the Houston Museum of Natural Science in an exhibit called “Lucy’s Legacy: The Treasures of Ethiopia.” The exhibit, slated to appear in 9 other venues in the United States over the next few years, is not just about Lucy, but about the wealth of human existence that has come from Ethiopia. It reminds me a bit of the Africa exhibit at the Smithsonian National Musuem of Natural History that I saw this summer, on a quick road trip, except focused on one area of Africa.

For inanimate objects, these Lucy’s bones have been making a stir ever since they were discovered back in 1974. Think science vs religion–not all religions, just those who struggle with the idea of when human beings first came into existence and how it happened in the first place. Some scientists are also not pleased as punch about this exhibit. Richard Leaky, for one, is pitching a fit. He doesn’t think that bones as important as these should ever be out in the general public. Heaven knows what will happen. Besides, that, in his opinion, this exhibit is exploiting Lucy. She was once a walking on the earth human being for Pete’s sake and worth more dignity than being on display in a glass case. (my wording)

Then there are those who believe that the exhibit will step up the interest in scientific discovery, the true origins of humans and encourage school age kids and the not scientist adult population to learn factual information about science and human history. With the Creation Museum opening this year in Northern Kentucky, maybe Lucy will help balance out what the public has access to.

The Ethiopian government is quite keen on promoting interest in Ethiopia with this exhibit and was willing to let the bones travel out of the country. The exhibit caught my attention. If Lucy comes anywhere near my neighborhood, I’m in. The 3-D history, art and science lesson from actual artifacts and explanatory text always interests me, and I’ll look at Lucy’s bones with the utmost respect and awe.

For more details about Lucy’s significance and the fuss that her tour has created, check out this Chicago Tribune article by William Mullen. There are more details about the conflicts over the exhibit that call into play the various perceptions and needs people have as we struggle to be open and share.