Stonehenge may have once served as a prehistoric art gallery according to a new study which uncovered 72 Early Bronze Age carvings on the ancient temple. The prehistoric images were discovered after a detailed laser scan was applied to the giant stones, although they remain invisible to the naked eye.
The analysis of the laser-data was carried out by English Heritage, which discovered that 71 of the carvings depict Bronze Age axe-heads while another features a Bronze Age dagger. Before this latest study was completed, 46 other carvings were visually identified in the 1950s, although it is not until now that all of these can be confirmed.
Amazingly, the discovery of the 72 new carvings means that Stonehenge now houses the largest single collection of prehistoric rock carvings in all of southern Britain. The uncovering of these new carvings also helps to shed further light on the history of the famous temple.
‘The new discoveries are of huge importance,’ Head of Geomatics and Visualisation at ArcHeritage told The Belfast Telegraph
. ‘They also demonstrate how emerging technologies can extract previously unsuspected and crucial information from a monument like Stonehenge. As the previously invisible images started appearing on our computer screens, we stared in disbelief at the sheer quantity of carvings being revealed – and treble-checked all our data.’
The new study confirms that the prehistoric temple was designed to be viewed from the north-east, which further suggests that a religious procession is likely to have travelled to the monument from that direction. The data also suggests that the south-west side of the temple was once functional, which goes against some views which have asserted that Stonehenge was never completed.
The previously unknown data also draws attention to the different stone-dressing techniques that were used in creating the monument, while the discovery of the carvings signifies a possible change in the temple’s religious function.
‘This extraordinary new evidence not only confirms the importance of the solstitial alignment at Stonehenge, but also show unequivocally that the formal approach was always intended to be from the north east, up the avenue towards the direction of midwinter sunset,' Professor Clive Ruggles told WebProNews
‘We see how the utmost care and attention was devoted to ensuring the pristine appearance of Stonehenge for those completing their final approach to the monument at the two times of the year when sunlight shines along the alignment – when those approaching had the midsummer rising sun behind or midwinter setting sun ahead.’
Stonehenge has long been a popular tourist attraction in England and remains one of the most famous sites in the world.