Oct. 31 (UPI) -- Data collected by a LiDAR survey has revealed a hidden Bronze Age monument in the Forest of Dean, a historically important region in Gloucestershire, England.
Jon Hoyle, an archaeologist with Gloucestershire County Council Archaeology Service, has been studying the archaeology of the Forest of Dean for nearly two decades. When Hoyle discovered a circular pattern in the LiDAR data, he decided to investigate further.
In a wooden enclosure near the town of Tidenham, Hoyle found a raised bank with 10 limestone standing stones on top. In the middle of the 82-foot-wide circle, Hoyle discovered a 22-foot-high mound.
When he first looked at the LiDAR data, Hoyle thought the feature was a gun emplacement left over from World War II. Instead, he found a 4,000-year-old ritual monument.
Hoyle estimates the monument was constructed between 2,500 and 1,500 B.C.
"It was very exciting," Hoyle told BBC News this week. "I was expecting to find quite a lot of new sites with the LiDAR, but nothing as interesting as this."
Hoyle first described the ring cairn in 2017 in a report on his ongoing research efforts, describing the monument as a "low bank of unordered sandstone and limestone rubble defining a circular enclosure without a visible entrance."
Several other ring cairns have been found at nearby medieval sites, but never before in Gloucestershire. Despite their prevalence, researchers have failed to determine their cultural significance.
"Nobody knows precisely what they were used for," Hoyle told BBC. "Some have been found in association with burials, and often there appear to be residues of charcoal in places like this, suggesting rituals that involved fire."
The ancient ritual monument is just one of many interesting archaeological features described in Hoyle's newly published book, Hidden Landscapes of the Forest of Dean.
"The Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, between the rivers Severn and Wye where England meets Wales, is known chiefly for its post-medieval industrial heritage," the publisher's description reads. "This book seeks to tell the story of its pre- and early history through written sources and archaeology."