I don’t know.
I think the coverage at places like the BBC are good, David Gregory found it exciting and I thought his story was a good read. However there are too many details missing from the reports to come to any conclusions. That’s not a complaint about the coverage, the mass-media isn’t an archaeological journal. It’s not even a gripe about publication by press-release because Mike Parker Pearson showed last year that news leaks out, so why not give the brief details out properly?
On the other hand the Birmingham team are looking at the landscape and, from reading the reports, I’ve no idea where this new site is in relation to Stonehenge. It’s almost certainly in sight of Stonehenge, but then the landscape round there is littered with barrows, Bronze Age burial mounds. The location will affect how we see the landscape. This henge isn’t to be confused with Bluestonehenge, the site found by the river Avon near Stonehenge last year. It’s also not Woodhenge, despite being made of wood, because that’s a different site near Durrington Walls, which is another site that has been in the news in recent years.
There’s not a lot I can say about the astronomy of this henge either. It could be aligned to the summer sunrise, but I can’t tell because the diagram doesn’t say which way north is. Also looking at the diagrams, the stone circle seems to have entrances facing one axis and the timber circle an entirely different alignment. In fact, the entrance to the wooden circle seems to be facing stones. To me, that suggests at least two phases to the monument. I imagine that there’ll be some sort of test excavation along similar lines. If you want to take your time planning an excavation it’s a very sensible idea not to flag up the location in the news.
The confusion that this finding is going to cause will be huge fun for Stonehenge watchers. The equipment they’re using is Ground-penetrating RADAR. This used to be rubbish, something you’d only use in an urban location where you got a good signal, but as with everything involving a microprocessor it’s advanced massively. It means that there’s huge swathes of land where some completely unexpected things will be found. In somewhere as busy as the Stonehenge landscape there has to be much more than this waiting to be discovered. It’ll raise some awkward questions for archaeoastronomers, because despite there being alignments will these newly discovered structures have blocked the view?
The exciting thing about this work is that it shows not only to we not have all the answers, we don’t even have all the questions.