Stone implements dating from 9000 to 2400bc

Dr Josh Pollard, from the University of Bristol and co-director of the project, explained: “This is an incredible discovery.

The newly-discovered circle and henge should be considered an integral part of Stonehenge rather than a separate monument.

There is no evidence that the circle had a particular orientation or even an entrance.

Soil that fell into the holes when the stones were removed was full of charcoal, showing that plenty of wood was burned here.

The circle of stones – no longer present – would have marked the end of the Avenue, a 2.8 km processional route that leads from the River Avon to Stonehenge, which was constructed at the end of the Stone Age (the Neolithic period).

The outer henge around the stones was built around 2400 BC, but arrowheads found in the circle indicate the stones were erected as much as 500 years earlier.

Archaeologists know that after this date Stonehenge consisted of some 80 Welsh blue stones and 83 local sarsen stones.

Some of the bluestones that once stood at the riverside probably now stand within the centre of Stonehenge.

In the meantime, the discovery of this unknown stone circle may well be exciting confirmation of the Stonehenge Riverside Project’s theory that the River Avon linked a ‘domain of the living’ – marked by timber circles and houses upstream at the Neolithic village of Durrington Walls (discovered by the Project in 2005) – with a ‘domain of the dead’ marked by Stonehenge and this new Bluestonehenge circle.Overhead view east-southeast of the burned rock midden (Feature 4) after initial exposure. Note the irregular shallow depressions with darker soil and a few larger rocks near the center of the photograph and in the central part of the midden.Later excavations revealed remnants of two large features in this area.Overhead view southeast of the lowest exposed portion of Feature 4B.This oval pattern of rock probably represents most of an intact heating element from a sizable earth oven about seven feet in length.

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