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Dry Grass Hints That Stonehenge Was Once a Whole Circle

Researchers find new evidence about the shape of Stonehenge

(WILL OLIVER/epa/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

It's pretty incredible that, there's still anything new to learn about Stonehenge, an object of fascination for millenia. But new research published in Antiquity presents a new hint to an old question about the site—was it ever a complete circle? 

Many researchers had long though that part of the structure was simply left open and hadn’t found any evidence of the presence of stones during previous investigations. But evidence of the missing stones showed up last summer during a dry spell, when dried patches of grass were noticed in the locations where the stones were expected to be. 

The BBC spoke with Tim Daw, a steward for English Heritage (the group that preserves and operates Stonehenge), who gave his account of noticing the patch marks in the grass:

"I was standing on the public path looking at the grass near the stones and thinking that we needed to find a longer hosepipe to get the parched patches to green up. A sudden lightbulb moment in my head, and I remembered that the marks were where archaeologists had looked without success for signs that there had been stone holes, and that parch marks can signify them. I called my colleague over and he saw them and realised their possible significance as well. Not being archaeologists we called in the professionals to evaluate them. I am still amazed and very pleased that simply really looking at something, that tens of thousands of people had unwittingly seen, can reveal secrets that sophisticated machinery can't."

Though promising, the results of the study are still very preliminary. Discovery News reports that the researchers at English Heritage hope to compare the location of the patchmarks to historical photos of the area from other dry periods and see if they show up then too. 

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