Visitors to England’s Stonehenge admire the magnificent and breathtaking vistas. Still, even spending a short time on site, it’s difficult not to notice the mass of traffic just a few hundred feet away. Although Stonehenge sits on a vacant land plot, a nearby road, built in the 19th century, acts as a major thoroughfare through the region. In 2020, the government conditionally approved the construction of a massive tunnel to silence highway noise.
A condition for construction approval required archeologists to ensure that the project won’t destroy anything of prehistoric value. Once digging began, excavators almost immediately hit paydirt.
Archaeologists discovered burial sites, earthworks, and a variety of ancient artifacts that may date to the time of the mysterious stone circle’s genesis. Among the most notable finds, excavators uncovered a burial chamber containing a single plain pot and a baby’s skeleton. Another site concealed a woman who died in her twenties, her skeletal arms wrapped around a “beaker” (the style of pottery from that time resembles scientific beakers, which gives the ancient civilization its name: the Beaker People.) The woman also held a copper awl or needle and a mysterious cylindrical shale object that may have been a staff or club.
Carbon dating of bones and the known periods of the Beaker People place this site at approximately 3500 years ago.
“Collectively, [the finds] allow us to build up an ever-more-detailed picture of what people were doing and how they were living in the area around Stonehenge,” Matt Leivers, a consultant archaeologist for Wessex Archaeology, told the British press.
However, despite the fantastic finds, Leivers says that their efforts shouldn’t hinder future construction of the tunnel. The location of the underground tunnel, far from Stonehenge, minimizes the risk of artifact destruction. That said, in the spring, archeologists will conduct a full expedition to scout the area just in case.
Newly discovered artifacts in the shadow of new construction near Stonehenge present interesting evidence of an ancient civilization that lived in the area over three millennia ago.