In recent years, the surroundings of Stonehenge have undergone a massive redevelopment, with one of the changes being the closure of the A344 road which had cut straight across ‘The Avenue’, a 1.5 mile long earthwork route from Stonehenge to the River Avon. The closure of the A344 allowed new archaeological excavations of this feature, and the findings appear to have completely changed our view of the famous monument and its well-known solstice alignment:
Just below the tarmac, they have found naturally occurring fissures that once lay between ridges against which prehistoric builders dug ditches to create the Avenue. The ridges were created by Ice Age meltwater that happen to point directly at the mid-winter sunset in one direction and the mid-summer sunrise in the other.
Professor Mike Parker Pearson, a leading expert on Stonehenge, said: “It’s hugely significant because it tells us a lot about why Stonehenge was located where it is and why they [prehistoric people] were so interested in the solstices. It’s not to do with worshipping the sun, some kind of calendar or astronomical observatory; it’s about how this place was special to prehistoric people.
“This natural landform happens to be on the solstice axis, which brings heaven and earth into one. So the reason that Stonehenge is all about the solstices, we think, is because they actually saw this in the land.”
Also interesting is the discovery of three holes where missing stones would have stood on the outer sarsen circle, suggesting that the monument was once a full, complete circle.