London, October 9: A detailed laser-scan survey of Stonehenge has discovered 72 previously unknown Early Bronze Age carvings chipped into five of the giant stones, suggesting that the monument was possibly a substantial prehistoric art gallery.
Although now largely invisible to the naked eye, back in the Early Bronze Age the images, composed of then-unweathered (and therefore lighter coloured) stone would have been clearly visible, the Independent reported.
The laser-scan survey was carried out for English Heritage by a Derby-based survey company – the Greenhatch Group – last year.
A subsidiary of York Archaeological Trust – ArcHeritage, also operating on behalf of English Heritage – then spent many months analysing and cataloguing the vast quantities of data.
Detailed analysis of that data found that images had been engraved on the stones, normally by removing the top 1-3 millimetres of weathered (darker coloured) rock, to produce different sized shapes.
Of the 72 newly discovered images revealed through the data analysis, 71 portray Bronze Age axe-heads and one portrays a Bronze Age dagger.
The revelations are likely to be of huge importance to archaeologists’ understanding of a key part of Stonehenge’s life as a prehistoric temple.
“The new discoveries are of huge importance. They also demonstrate how emerging technologies can extract previously unsuspected and crucial information from a monument like Stonehenge,” the Independent quoted Marcus Abbott, Head of Geomatics and Visualization at ArcHeritage, as saying.
Particularly puzzling is the laser survey discovery that the prehistoric stone masons, who helped create Stonehenge, used two different stone-working techniques.
The stone-dressing work on the monument’s great circle (both uprights and lintels) was accomplished by working parallel to the long sides of the stones, while the five stone ‘trilithons’ (the great horse-shoe arrangement of linteled stones) within the great circle were dressed by working at right-angles to the sides of the stones.
This previously unknown fact – revealed by the laser scan operation – suggests that the great ‘trilithons’ may have been constructed slightly before the great circle rather than being contemporary with it. (ANI)