British archaeologists have uncovered an extensive Neolithic settlement
not two miles away that was possibly once home to hundreds of people.
They have also unearthed a physical link between that settlement and
Stonehenge: a 4,500-year-old stone avenue runs between the settlement at
Durrington Walls and the nearby River Avon. Since a similar avenue was
unearthed in the 1960s linking the river to Stonehenge, researchers
believe ancient Brits almost certainly traveled between the two sites,
both carbon-dated to 2,600-2,500 B.C. "We knew these were from broadly
the same period, but the idea that it forms a single integrated complex
is quite new," says Julian Thomas, a director of the project and an
archaeologist at the University of Manchester. "It completely changes
our understanding of Stonehenge."
The path is, therefore, not an umbilical cord but a kind of existential
passage between twin parts of the cosmos: a world of the living, as
represented by the remains of the settlement, and the world of the dead,
signified by the great stone circle. Researchers now believe the
monument contains the remains of about 250 cremated people. The roads
that link Stonehenge, through the river Avon to Durrington Walls — which
is right next to the site of a timber structure intriguingly known as
Woodhenge — suggest a society with elaborate ceremonies that Stonehenge
alone only hints at. "For the very first time," says Mike Pitts, editor
of British Archaeology and a Stonehenge expert, "it's creating a social
world into which we can place Stonehenge."