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The Goseck enclosure and hundreds of similar wooden circular henges were built throughout Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic during a 200-year period around 4600 b.c. While the sites vary in size--the one at Goseck is around 220 feet in diameter--they all have the same features.
Stonehenge's secret: archaeologist uncovers evidence of encircling hedges
The Monty Python knights who craved a shrubbery were not so far off the historical mark: archaeologists have uncovered startling evidence of The Great Stonehenge Hedge.
Inevitably dubbed Stonehedge, the evidence from a new survey of the Stonehenge landscape suggests that 4,000 years ago the world's most famous prehistoric monument was surrounded by two circular hedges, planted on low concentric banks. The best guess of the archaeologists from English Heritage, who carried out the first detailed survey of the landscape of the monument since the Ordnance Survey maps of 1919, is that the hedges could have served as screens keeping even more secret from the crowd the ceremonies carried out by the elite allowed inside the stone circle.
The survey also found puzzling evidence that there may once have been a shallow mound among the stones, inside the circle. It was flattened long ago, but is shown in some 18th century watercolours though it was written off as artistic licence by artists trying to make the site look even more picturesque. The archaeologists wonder if the circle originally incorporated a mound which could have been a natural geological feature, or an even earlier monument.
for National Geographic News
Published February 11, 2010
Stonehenge may have been surrounded by a "Stonehedge" that blocked onlookers from seeing secret rituals, according to a new study.
Evidence for two encircling hedges—possibly thorn bushes—planted some 3,600 years ago was uncovered during a survey of the site by English Heritage, the government agency responsible for maintaining the monument in southern England.
The idea that Stonehedge was a shield against prying eyes isn’t yet firmly rooted, but it's archaeologists' leading theory. For instance the newfound banks are too low and unsubstantial to have had a defensive role.
"The best [theory] we can come up with is some sort of hedge bank," said English Heritage archaeologist David Field, whose team discovered the two landscape features in April 2009.
"We think they served as some sort of screen to filter access to the center [of Stonehenge]." (See Stonehenge pictures.)
The shallow earthworks—each runs inside a ring of known Bronze Age pits—are just visible to an expert eye, "but you need to get down on your hands and knees" to see them, Field added.
Partially concealed by fallen stones, the forgotten mound had been previously recorded in 18th- and 19th-century watercolor paintings.
"There’s a good chance it's prehistoric," said English Heritage's Field.
The suspected burial mound possibly dates to the earliest phases of the monument, as early as 5,000 years ago, Field said.
If the mound was built first, "it may be that this was the focus around which Stonehenge developed."