Outside the Circle: The Ancient Stonehenge Landscape – A Wider Perspective

(Read the article on one page)

Stonehenge stands on the windswept Salisbury Plain reminding us of the engineering, astronomical, and mathematical skills of our distant ancestors. Undoubtedly, Stonehenge is recognised worldwide as one of Britain’s most iconic stone circles. Yet, Stonehenge is a part of a much wider ceremonial landscape that contains some of the most enigmatic and mysterious monuments ever constructed. Stonehenge has its origins rooted in antiquity.  Around 10,000 years ago the Mesolithic peoples of Salisbury Plain created a thriving community close to where Stonehenge would eventually stand some five thousand years later.

Totem poles or temple structure?

In the old visitor’s car park next to Stonehenge are three large white circular markers which signify the position of Mesolithic postholes. Excavated in the 1960s these timber features were interpreted as ‘totem poles’ which instantly conjures up an image of free standing timbers of no complexity. However, laboratory carbon dating sent a shock wave through the archaeological community as the postholes dated from 8800 BC; although one post may have been a later addition. Aligned to face the direction of the spring and autumn equinoxes, the posts that once stood 14 feet high, reveal astronomical precision at a time when we are told that prehistoric communities were hunter-gathers. Granted, at sites such as Goblecki Tepe megalith temples were constructed during the Mesolithic era; the Far East being considered the cradle of civilization, however, ancient Britain was seen as a primitive backwater. 

What did the posts signify and were they a section of a much wider timber structure – a temple complex? Questions abound as the excavation had many flaws. In 1988, some thirteen years after the initial excavation, a fourth posthole was discovered suggesting that other features may have been missed. Labelling timber posts ‘totem poles’ robs our prehistoric ancestors of their ingenious skills which will soon become evident.

Mesolithic Buildings

Close to Stonehenge is Vespasian’s Camp, an Iron Age hill fort which was a Druidic ceremonial centre dated to 500 BC. In 2005, at the base of the camp, archaeologists unearthed yet more surprises about our distant Mesolithic past. Thought to be nomadic wanderers that followed game and wild herds, Mesolithic people roamed the British landscape and lived in temporary huts or dwellings. However, new evidence dismisses this old opinion from which a new view of our remote past emerges.

Vespasian’s Camp, an Iron Age hill fort

Vespasian’s Camp, an Iron Age hill fort

Close to an old spring, a Mesolithic building was recently discovered which is the oldest known building in the Stonehenge landscape. This find is unprecedented as it was believed that no such structure should exist; as Mesolithic people were thought to be nomadic. It was interpreted as a ‘home base’ or campsite that people returned to seasonally. Certainly, the spring was deemed sacred as numerous Mesolithic deposits were placed in the water. Over 10,000 Mesolithic implements such as tools were excavated from the spring and remarkably the tools were in pristine condition. Indeed, the blades were so sharp that some of the archaeologists cut their fingers on the razor-sharp edges. For millennia, the spring continued to be revered as deposits from the Neolithic, Bronze and Iron Ages were found alongside ritual deposits of the later Romano-British era.  This was hallowed ground revered since the dawn of time.

We are spoon-fed by historians that the Mesolithic people lived in wigwam like structures following wild animals and foraging for nuts and wild berries. Not so. People lived in the so-called home base for over 1500 years as occupation spanned from 6250 – 4700 BC. This was no short-lived affair and over 62 generations lived and worshipped close to Stonehenge and its Lourdes like spring.

Evidently, it was the Mesolithic people that chose and consecrated the location of Stonehenge long before a single stone was raised by their Neolithic descendants.

3800 BC a New Monument Emerges

Around 3800 BC, (if the archaeological dating system is correct and many anomalous findings questions this) a new monument suddenly emerged that still defies explanation.  When I take people into the Stonehenge landscape I always point out where a monument called the Cursus was located. Cursus monuments were common in Neolithic Britain and one gigantic example stood around 875 yards (800m) north of Stonehenge. Although Cursus monuments preceded the stone circle-building phase by over a thousand years, they are intimately associated with them.


Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

An ancient skull (public domain). Note: This image is representational only, and is not a photo of one of the skulls recently-discovered in Mayo, Ireland. Photos have not yet been released of the Neolithic Mayo bones.
The remains of at least ten adults, adolescents and children that were positioned in a 5,500-year-old cave-like structure over the course of 1,200 years during the Neolithic Period, have been found in Ireland. All of them show signs of having their heads smashed in after death, as part of a mysterious funerary ritual.

Human Origins

Silhouettes (Public Domain) in front of blood cells (Public Domain) and a gene.
Most people who have the Rh blood type are Rh-positive. There are also instances, however, where people are Rh-Negative. Health problems may occur for the unborn child of a mother with Rh-Negative blood when the baby is Rh-Positive.

Ancient Technology

Roman glass (not the legendary flexible glass). Landesmuseum Württemberg, Stuttgart.
Imagine a glass you can bend and then watch it return to its original form. A glass that you drop but it doesn’t break. Stories say that an ancient Roman glassmaker had the technology to create a flexible glass, ‘vitrium flexile’, but a certain emperor decided the invention should not be.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article