Thousands of years ago, Neolithic humans in southern Britain constructed some of the most enduring evidence of early civilizations: enormous megaliths, including Stonehenge, used by generations of prehistoric peoples as sites for burials and rituals.
Some historians have argued that Neolithic workers built these henges over the course of centuries. But new research published in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society suggests that ancient builders actually constructed one such structure—the Mount Pleasant henge just outside of Dorchester, England—in a much speedier timeframe of between 35 and 125 years.
Researchers proposed the revised timeline after radiocarbon dating artifacts recovered from the Mount Pleasant site. Though the items tested were excavated more than 50 years ago, they had not been analyzed with modern dating techniques until now, according to a statement from Wales’ Cardiff University.
As Steven Morris writes for the Guardian, the Mount Pleasant complex originally consisted of a timber-and-stone monument; a henge, or circular enclosure surrounded by a ditch; and a palisade, or fence made out of enormous felled trees. Per Rhys Blakely of the Times, workers felled thousands of trees and spent “millions” of hours constructing the enclosure.
Though the land on which the Neolithic henge stood has been ploughed over and turned into farmland, Historic England notes that key traces of the sprawling site remain intact. Mount Pleasant sits just south of Dorchester, about an hour’s drive south of Stonehenge.
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