A new archaeological dig in the Stonehenge environs has revealed that the area around the ancient stone circle is officially the longest continuously occupied settlement in Britain currently known about. Radiocarbon dating of artifacts found 1.5 miles east of the prehistoric monument has shown that the Stonehenge landscape has been inhabited for some 10,000 years. The finding suggests that the area was of considerable significance for thousands of years before Stonehenge and other monuments in the region were built.
“The site blows the lid off the Neolithic Revolution - deemed the first agricultural revolution in Middle Eastern history - in a number of ways,” said archaeologist David Jacques of the University of Buckingham. “It provides evidence for people staying put, clearing land, building and presumably worshipping at monuments.”
According to a news report in The Independent, the newly dated Mesolithic site, known as Vespasian’s Camp, was located around a spring, and has so far revealed more than 31,000 pieces of worked flint and over 1000 animal bones.
The findings suggest that the area was a center for tool-making and was used for huge feasts where an ancient species of cow, called aurochs, as well as red deer and wild pig were consumed. Virtually all the tools found were in pristine condition, so much so that some of the team members cut their fingers on them as they are still sharp.
The Stonehenge landscape is not only unique for its ancient roots, dating back to the pre-agricultural Mesolithic period, but it also stands out from other prehistoric sites in England because the area was subsequently inhabited during the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age, Romano-British, Anglo-Saxon and later medieval periods.
“The area was clearly a hub point for people to come to from many miles away and in many ways was a forerunner for what later went on in Stonehenge itself,” said Mr. Jacques.
The findings suggests that the construction of Stonehenge was a response to long-term use of the area, rather than a new build in an empty landscape, and helps to explain why the area became ritually and politically so important and therefore why Stonehenge itself was ultimately built there.