• Excavations confirm that Stonehenge was  built on an Ice Age landform
  • Ridges found to point at the mid-winter  sunset and mid-summer sunrise
  • Experts claim that ancient people  believed the geological scars signified the ‘union of heaven and earth’ at the  longest and shortest day of the year
  • Evidence has also been found that the now  broken circle was once complete

The ancient people who built Stonehenge chose  the site in modern-day Wiltshire because of its solar significance,  archaeologists claim.

The ridges were created by Ice Age meltwater and naturally point directly at the mid-winter sunset in one direction and the mid-summer sunrise in the other

The ridges were created by Ice Age meltwater and naturally point directly at the mid-winter sunset in one direction and the mid-summer sunrise in the other

In what is described as a ‘missing piece in  the jigsaw’ in our understanding of England’s greatest prehistoric site,  excavations confirm the theory that its ancient processional route was built  along an ice-age landform which was naturally on the solstice axis, according to  Professor Mike Parker Pearson, a leading expert on Stonehenge.

The monument’s original purpose still remains  shrouded in mystery, but this is a dramatic clue, he said.

The route, known as the Avenue, extended 1.5  miles from the standing stones’ north-eastern entrance to West Amesbury. It has  been likened to The Mall leading to Buckingham Palace.

After the closure of the A344 road, which  bisected the route, archaeologists have been able to excavate there for the  first time.

The excavations were conducted by Wessex  Archaeology for English Heritage.

Just below the modern road’s surface, they  unearthed ditches dug by prehistoric builders.

Professor Parker Pearson identified  naturally-occurring fissures that once lay between ridges which follow the route  of the Avenue.

The ridges were created by Ice Age meltwater  and naturally point directly at the mid-winter sunset in one direction and the  mid-summer sunrise in the other.

Professer Parker Pearson is excited by the  evidence, which he describes as ‘hugely significant’.

‘It tells us a lot about why Stonehenge was  located where it is and why they were so interested in the solstices,’ he  said.

‘It’s not to do with worshipping the sun,  some kind of calendar or astronomical observatory.

‘It’s about how this place was special to  prehistoric people. This natural landform happens to be on the solstice axis,  which brings heaven and earth into one.’

He explained that Stonehenge is ‘all about  the solstices’ and our ancestors could see this in the land.

The excavations support theories that first  emerged in 2008 with an exploration of a narrow trench across the Avenue.

Professor Parker Pearson said: ‘It’s being  able to see the big picture.’

Dr Heather Sebire, English Heritage’s  Stonehenge curator, said: ‘The part of the Avenue that was cut through by the  road has obviously been destroyed forever, but we were hopeful that archaeology  below the road would survive.

‘And here we have it – the missing piece in  the jigsaw. It is very exciting to find a piece of physical evidence that  officially makes the connection which we were hoping for.’

She expects the latest findings to spark  vigorous academic debate, and English Heritage has not expressed an opinion on  the naturally-formed ridges, their interpretation being confined to the ditches.

The original A344 road is to be grassed over  next year as part of English Heritage’s £27m transformation of the World  Heritage Site, which draws more than one million annual visitors.

A new visitor centre will be opened, 1.5  miles away out of sight, to allow Stonehenge to reconnect with the surrounding  landscape.

The latest study has also identified three  holes where missing stones would have stood on the outer sarsen circle –  evidence, it is believed, that the circle was indeed once complete.

Astonishingly, at least to the layman, even  the most sophisticated surveys failed to spot them.

Two eagle-eyed members of staff happened to  notice dry surface areas of grass, or parchmarks.

Professor Parker Pearson said: ‘The problem  is we’ve not had a decent dry summer in many years.

‘Stonehenge is always regularly watered – and  the only reason these have shown up is because – for some reason this year –  their hose was too short… So we’re very lucky.’

Susan Greaney, an English Heritage historian,  added: ‘The discovery… has certainly strengthened the case for [the monument]  being a full circle.’

Full article: By Dalya Alberge: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2415888/Stonehenge-WAS-built-solstice-axis-Ice-Age-meltwater-carved-sun-facing-ridges-landscape-later-inspired-4-500-year-old-rock-circle.html

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