Stonehenge has given up more of its secrets as an international archaeological survey team working on the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project has located two previously unknown “pits” at the site, revealing a bit more about the prehistoric monument.
Using geophysical imaging techniques to shake Stonehenge down for historical data, the team discovered the pits “positioned on celestial alignment at the site” and say they “may have contained stones, posts or fires to mark the rising and setting of the sun,” the BBC reports. The discovery was made by archaeologists from the University of Birmingham and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection in Vienna, who together have been surveying the site since the summer of 2010.
It’s believed that the pits were used to celebrate ancient sun rituals such as midsummer solstice, and Archaeologist and project leader at Birmingham University Professor Vince Gaffney commented to the BBC on the find:
“This is the first time we have seen anything quite like this at Stonehenge and it provides a more sophisticated insight into how rituals may have taken place within the Cursus and the wider landscape.”
The site explains further:
It is thought the pits, positioned within the Neolithic Cursus pathway, could have formed a procession route for ancient rituals celebrating the sun moving across the sky at the midsummer solstice… A Cursus comprises two parallel linear ditches with banks either side closed off at the end… Also discovered was a gap in the northern side of the Cursus, which may have been an entrance and exit point for processions taking place within the pathway.
The discovery seems to suggest that even prior to the erection of the iconic stones 5,000 years ago, the site was used as a center for ancient rituals.