This field of ancient stones may be more complex than initially believed.

Scientists have new evidence that there is more to Stonehenge—the ancient rock formations that stand alone in a field in Wiltshire, England—than meets the eye.

Based on cutting edge digital mapping technology, researchers at the University of Birmingham working as part of The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project have discovered a treasure trove of new findings buried beneath the stones themselves.

Scientists noted that the number of structures fundamentally alters the modern perception of Stonehenge from a single monolith to a sprawling complex that was occupied by a large number of people. One of the project leaders, Professor Vincent Gaffney, who is Chair in Landscape Archaeology and Geomatics at the University of Birmingham also indicated that the most recent discovery is likely only the tip of a massive archeological iceberg.  According to the University, the new discoveries include 17 temples, burial mounds, shrines, and massive prehistoric pits that experts say appear to form astrological alignments. Many of the findings,  such as a large timber temple that was likely used to treat and bury the dead, are even older than the prehistoric monument above them, which is dated to 3,100 BCE.  

Despite Stonehenge being the most iconic of all prehistoric monuments and occupying one of the richest archaeological landscapes in the world, much of this landscape in effect remains terra incognita.

Using radar technology developed at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute in Vienna, teams of researchers have spent years gathering images from around Stonehenge. According to the institute's Director Professor Wolfgang Neubauer, the techniques used in the discovery will likely be employed in future archeological research.

The developments of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology (LBI ArchPro) offer Europe the opportunity to carry out fundamental archaeological research at a scale and precision never previously attempted.

Meanwhile for something was erected over 4,000 years ago, Stonehenge has certainly seen its fair share of news of late. On his trip back from the NATO Summit in Wales last week, President Obama made his own impromptu trip to the site.

This piece originally appeared on The Wire, an Atlantic partner site.

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About the Author

David Ludwig

David Ludwig is a former editorial fellow with The Atlantic​.

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