Researchers from the University of Birmingham and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection say two huge pits positioned on celestial alignment at Stonehenge shed new light on the monument's association to the sun.
The pits may have contained tall stones, wooden posts or even fires to mark the rising and setting of the sun, Birmingham researchers said Monday. The pits may have defined a processional route used to celebrate the passage of the sun across the sky at the summer solstice.
The university said the pits are on alignment toward midsummer sunrise and sunset when viewed from the Heel Stone, which stands just outside the entrance to Stonehenge. The pits may connect with the Cursus, a large enclosure north of Stonehenge.
"This is the first time we have seen anything quite like this at Stonehenge and it provides a more sophisticated insight into how rituals may have taken place within the Cursus and the wider landscape," project leader Vince Gaffney said in a release. "These exciting finds indicate that even though Stonehenge was ultimately the most important monument in the landscape, it may at times not have been the only, or most important, ritual focus and the area of Stonehenge may have become significant as a sacred site at a much earlier date."