Amesbury, a quaint English parish, already had one claim to fame. It is the closest population center to Stonehenge, drawing more than one million visitors per year to see the iconic stone circle. But now it has a new mark of distinction. Scientists announced that they had found artifacts in the area that dated to 8820 B.C.—which makes this particular locale the oldest continuously occupied area of Britain.
David Jacques, from the University of Buckingham, said: "The site blows the lid off the Neolithic Revolution in a number of ways. It provides evidence for people staying put, clearing land, building, and presumably worshipping, monuments. 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 at Stonehenge itself. The first monuments at Stonehenge were built by these people. For years people have been asking why is Stonehenge where it is, now at last, we have found the answers."
Stonehenge wasn’t built until sometime between 2,500 B.C. and 3,000 B.C., thousands of years after the earliest residents began putting down roots.
At Amesbury, the researchers found the discarded bones of several large animals and burned flints, indicating a place where large feasts took place. The bones tended to be of very large animals, but last year researchers also found frog legs at the site (indicating that early British people had been eating frog legs millennia before the early French).
The discovery also means that Amesbury replaces Thatcham as the U.K.’s oldest continuously occupied area. Evidence at Thatcham dated to only 7,700 B.C.—after people were inhabiting Amesbury, but still years before anyone dragged gigantic bluestones into a circle.