The Sunday Telegraph

Woodhenge just as old as Stonehenge, research shows

- By Dalya Alberge

THE Neolithic monument of Woodhenge has long been thought to have been constructe­d in a single phase around 2300 BC, a couple of hundred years after the sarsen stones were erected at nearby Stonehenge.

But new research has revealed that the monuments were in fact contempora­ry with one another and that Woodhenge was built in at least two phases.

Radiocarbo­n dating of Woodhenge’s concentric ovals of standing posts, which are surrounded by a bank and ditch, have discovered that its solstice-aligned timber rings are earlier than assumed and that the monument was constructe­d over a longer period than previously realised.

The new dates show that the timber rings were constructe­d in the decades around 2600 BC and that the surroundin­g henge earthworks were built around 150 to 200 years later, around 2450 BC.

The rings are therefore broadly contempora­ry with Stonehenge’s sarsens, which were erected in the decades around 2500 BC or slightly earlier.

The research was co-headed by Amanda Chadburn, English Heritage’s former lead adviser at the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site.

She told The Telegraph: “We’ve dated different parts of Woodhenge and some bits are clearly later than others, showing that the monument wasn’t all built at the same time. We’ve discovered that it was a two-phase monument and that its solstice-aligned timber rings were earlier, constructe­d around 2,600BC – and is therefore broadly contempora­ry with the sarsens at Stonehenge.”

Noting that both monuments were aligned with the solstices, she said of the Woodhenge discovery: “It’s significan­t because it proves that Stonehenge was not a one-off within the landscape. It shows that people, who held their ceremonies or religious rituals in these monuments, were looking at the sun in a similar way [at the same time].”

Woodhenge was discovered in 1925, after RAF Squadron Leader Gilbert Insall noticed strange formations in a ploughed field while flying near the Wiltshire village of Durrington.

It consisted of six concentric rings of timber posts of varying sizes, forming an oval monument 40m (131ft) long and 36m (118ft) wide. While Woodhenge seems to have had a single entrance, its oval post rings are aligned north-east to south-west, linked to either the midsummer sunrise or midwinter sunset.

Dr Chadburn conducted the research with Clive Ruggles of Leicester University. Their findings will feature in their forthcomin­g book, Stonehenge: Sighting the Sun, to be published on May 8 by Liverpool University Press on behalf of Historic England, which funded and oversaw the radiocarbo­n dating.

 ?? ?? Posts mark the site of Woodhenge’s timber circles, first constructe­d around 2600 BC
Posts mark the site of Woodhenge’s timber circles, first constructe­d around 2600 BC

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