Prehistoric henge is found on farmland in Warwickshire

  • The henge, dating between 4,000 and 3,000BC, is in Newbold-on-Stour
  • The Site is made up of a circular space, surrounded by a mound and ditch 
  • Five skeletons, though to date to the late Bronze Age, were also found nearby
  • Exact purpose is unknown, but scientists say it may have been used for a ritual

A neolithic monument has been uncovered by during the construction of a new housing development on farmland in Warwickshire.

The 4,000 year old henge and the buried remains of five people were discovered by a routine geophysical survey ahead of the construction work.

And when it revealed evidence of an unusual circular ditch and earth embankment, experts decided it was time to take a closer look.

The prehistoric henge was found in Newbold-on-Stour It was originally thought to be a burial mound, but is in fact a ritual gathering place 

The prehistoric henge was found in Newbold-on-Stour It was originally thought to be a burial mound, but is in fact a ritual gathering place

The site was discovered at Newbold-on-Stour, a village in Warwickshire about six miles south of Stratford upon Avon.

The henge, which is believed to date from around 2,000 BC, survived as a shallow, segmented circular ditch with an diameter of 30 feet (9.5 metres).

The five people had been buried within the south-western segment of the ditch and were found as complete skeletons, which is relatively rare.

Scientists will date the skeletons in mid-June.

Experts from Archaeology Warwickshire believe the ditch and bank were not for defence but were instead intended to close off its interior to make it an arena for festivals and rituals.

Originally it would have been surrounded by a bank that would probably have been on the outside of the ditch because, unlike other types of sites.

Archaeology Warwickshire Business Manager Stuart Palmer said: ‘This exciting discovery is of national importance as it provides tangible evidence for cult or religious belief in late Stone Age Warwickshire.’

WHAT WE KNOW SO FAR

The prehistoric henge was found in Newbold-on-Stour

It was originally thought to be a burial mound, but is in fact a ritual gathering place

The site is made up of a circular space, surrounded by a mound and ditch

It dates between 4,000 and 3,000BC, and its purpose is unknown

Five skeletons, though to date to the late Bronze Age, were also found nearby

Three middle burials face west out from the henge

Two burials on the outer part of the monument that face east, into the henge

This seems to be deliberate and scientists will date those skeletons in mid-June

Earthworks such as this began showing up in the British Isles in the third and early second millennia BC

Ancient antler fragments also artefacts found in the ditch

Project officer Nigel Page, who excavated the site said: ‘Exactly what the henge was used for is not certain, but it is likely to have been used for rituals, some of which may have been associated with cosmological events over 4,000 years ago.

‘The skeletons have been recovered from the site and will undergo scientific analysis to try to answer the many questions that their presence on the site has raised.

‘For example, it is hoped that the sex and age of the people can be established and it may also be possible to determine if there was a family connection between them.

‘The rare survival of the skeletons will provide an important opportunity to gain a unique insight into the lives of the people who not only knew the henge and its landscape but who were probably some of the region’s earliest residents’.

It is still not exactly clear why the ancient inhabitants of the British Isles built henges.

And there is no single design shared by the hundreds of examples that have been uncovered.

The 4,000 year old henge (pictured) and the buried remains of five people were discovered by a routine geophysical survey ahead of the construction work

The 4,000 year old henge (pictured) and the buried remains of five people were discovered by a routine geophysical survey ahead of the construction work

The five people had been buried within the south-western segment of the ditch and were found as complete skeletons, which is relatively rare. Scientists will date the skeletons in mid-June

The five people had been buried within the south-western segment of the ditch and were found as complete skeletons, which is relatively rare. Scientists will date the skeletons in mid-June

But they are believed to have served a variety of ceremonial and ritualistic purposes.

The henge at Newbold-on-Stour was an earthwork structure which, unlike its famous counterparts Avebury and Stonehenge, was a simple design consisting of a ditch that was dug in segments and a bank made up of the material thrown up from the ditch.

The people had been buried carefully as none of the burials had been placed on top of another.

The three middle burials were facing west, out from the henge, while the two outer ones were facing east, into the henge.

This apparently deliberate arrangement suggests that the people being buried were a group of some kind, possibly family members, and that the people burying them knew where the others were buried.