LONDON, April 19 (UPI) -- Archaeologists say new discoveries suggest the area around England's Stonehenge was occupied 5,000 years earlier than previously thought.
A research dig at a location just a mile from the ancient iconic stone structure has unearthed the first firm evidence of continuous occupation from as early as 7,500 B.C., they said.
That goes against previously help beliefs that the Stonehenge site was abandoned by Mesolithic humans and occupied by Neolithic men thousands of years later.
Rather, they researchers said, Stonehenge should be considered a place where one culture merged with the other.
Researchers said the settlement was identified after it was decided to search around a spring on the site, under the assumption it could have attracted animals.
"My thinking was where you find wild animals, you tend to find people," study leader David Jacques of the Open University told The Daily Telegraph. "What we found was the nearest secure watering hole for animals and people, a type of all year round fresh water source. It's the nearest one to this place [Stonehenge]. I think it's pivotal."
The people occupying the site were most likely responsible for erecting the first monument at Stonehenge, known as the Mesolithic posts, between the 9th and 7th millennia B.C., the archaeologists said.