Late in the summer of 2015, ground-penetrating radar (GPR) operators made what could be British archaeology’s greatest discovery. GPR is a geophysical method that uses electronic pulses to identify hard objects beneath the surface of the earth. Electromagnetic radiation in the microwave band (UHF/VHF frequencies) of the radio spectrum detects reflected signals from subsurface structures, converting them into detailed images, virtual photographs taken of buried objects with radar.
Capable of rendering three-dimensional images from an otherwise unseen, subterranean world, the instruments are hitched to trailers towed by four-wheelers and tractors. For the past five years, University of Bradford team members from the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project drove these vehicles slowly, back and forth over the fields of Wiltshire, beaming electromagnetic pulses downward, which bounced back with visual information on returning signals. The remote-sensing instruments gradually built up an illustrated map of southern England’s ancient, underground landscape, which included seventeen, small, stone structures the archaeologists refer to as “chapels,” hundreds of other archaeological features, and a large, timber building encased in chalk suggesting a house of the dead, where defleshing was performed as a burial ritual.
Dramatic as these revelations appeared, they were eclipsed by the August discovery of “the largest surviving stone monument that has ever been discovered in Britain and possibly in Europe,” according to Vince Gaffney a Project archaeologist. It lies just two miles from Stonehenge but is five times greater in area and has six times more megaliths—ninety, compared to the fifteen at Stonehenge, where the tallest stand thirteen feet; the newly found site possesses many more that are two feet taller. Spreading over four, square miles, Superhenge is closely associated with a pair of immense pits in a two-mile-long monument called the Cursus.
On midsummer’s day, the eastern pit’s alignment with the rising sun and the western pit’s fix to the setting sun intersect at Stonehenge’s precise mid-point. Superhenge incorporates its own lunar and solar orientations, although, unlike the concentric circles of Stonehenge, the megaliths were configured into a gargantuan capital “C” open towards the river Avon. They may have been set up to create an enormous arena for many thousands of spectators and/or participants in ceremonial events probably timed by its celestial relationships. The massive stones were deliberately joined up with a chalk ridge into which the Neolithic construction engineers cut, thereby accentuating the location’s natural border and forming a ritual arena centered on the area’s natural depression. In other words, they built Superhenge in very close conformity with the natural landscape.
Found just three feet beneath a thick, grassy bank, most of the prodigious stones were intentionally toppled, then buried under an earthen embankment, more than four thousand years ago. Henge is an Old British term defining any prehistoric earthwork consisting of a roughly circular or oval-shaped bank with an internal ditch surrounding a central flat area more than sixty feet across. Superhenge is located along the lower edge of another, related, Neolithic megalopolis.
One mile in circumference, Durrington Walls is surrounded by a ditch and a one hundred twenty-foot-wide, three-foot-tall outer bank that once enclosed more than one thousand houses. One of the homes excavated was very similar in layout to a house at Skara Brae, a stone-built, contemporaneous settlement in Orkney, more than seven hundred miles due north. Durrington’s surviving “walls” are actually eroded remains of the inner slope of the bank—originally ninety-eight feet wide—and the outer slope of the internal ditch, eighteen feet deep, twenty-three feet wide at its bottom, and fifty-nine feet across wide at the top.
A very large village occupied the sloping riverbank on this side, where four, large concentric rings of postholes held extremely large standing timbers. Referred to as the Southern Circle, they were oriented southeast towards sunrise on the midwinter solstice. A paved avenue was also constructed on a slightly different alignment—towards the sunset on the summer solstice—that led to the River Avon, the replication of another “avenue” at Stonehenge. A large timber post lying on this orientation, about as far away from the circle as the so-called “Heelstone” is from Stonehenge, shared the same celestial relationship. “Woodhenge,” as Durrington Walls’ huge timber circle is known, alone required upwards of six thousand workers to complete. They were, of course, a tiny fraction of vast multitudes of persons who congregated at Wiltshire’s vast ceremonial complex.
“Everything written previously about the Stonehenge landscape and the ancient monuments within it,” declared Paul Garwood, lead historian on the Project, “will need to be rewritten.” Stonehenge and Superhenge are composed of sarasen blocks, a type of sandstone common to the Salisbury Plain. This shared building material and comparative chronologies demonstrate that both belonged to the same, vast collection of ceremonial monuments that spread over the Salisbury Plain, beginning toward the close of the fourth millennium BCE. These mutual time parameters do, in fact, identity of the origins of Superhenge and its related structures. Their initial event horizon was circa 3100 BCE, when the first henge on the Salisbury Plain was completed.
The next major phase, it is believed, was about 2100 BCE, as an additional, two, concentric rings were added at Durrington Walls, and Woodhenge was constructed; while, immediately south of it, another large timber circle and henge were created. A ditch some eighteen feet deep was dug, and soil used to create a large outer bank almost one hundred feet wide and about fifteen feet high. Several features of the village, including houses and midden, or refuge pits, were built over. At the same time, the great standing stones of Superhenge were toppled and buried. By 1500 BCE, construction stopped at Stonehenge, which took its final form. Three hundred years later, the entire Salisbury Plain and all its monuments were abandoned and fell into ruin.
These periods of cultural florescence and decline exactly parallel periodic close passes of the Earth made by a large comet known as “Encke.” Named after an early nineteenth century German astronomer, Johann Franz Encke, it collided with the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, resulting in the Stohl Meteor Streams. These later formed the Taurid meteors, as described by the astronomers Victor Clube and William Napier in their broadly respected books, The Cosmic Serpent (NY: Universe Publishers, 1982) and The Cosmic Winter (UK: Blackwell Publishing, Ltd., 1990). Their conclusions have been more recently confirmed and expanded by Dr. Richard B. Firestone, a nuclear physicist and staff scientist at California’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in his The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes: How a Stone-Age Comet Changed the Course of World Culture (VT: Bear & Company, 2006).
Supporting their research, astronomer Duncan Steel tells how “the night sky around 3000 BCE, and for a period of at least one or two millennia after it, was disturbed, contained one or a few major comets recurring annually, coupled with epochs (set by orbital precession), when the annual meteor storm reached prodigious levels.” He stated that a series of four comets spaced one month apart made “terrestrial orbit intersections” with Earth in 3100 BCE. His observations have been underscored by an acidity spike in Greenland’s Camp Century ice core, which indicates a large, sudden increase of ash-fall worldwide. In fact, Atlantic Ocean volcanism reached a peak around the turn of the fourth millennium BC, particularly in Iceland, at Mt. Heyday, and in the Azores. Worldwide, erosion values of twenty to thirty tons/kilometers before 2950 BC jumped to 140 tons/kilometers.
Simultaneously, a so-called “dust veil event,” indicating the abrupt appearance of a massive ash-fall in the atmosphere, is documented by tree rings in Ireland and England. There was increased cosmic dust input coincident with the widespread burning of various northern European bogs. In addition to completion of the first henge at the Salisbury Plain, the Stones of Stenness, outside the village of Barnhouse, and Maes Howe, located at the center of the Orkney island of Mainland and Britain’s Ring of Brodgar, were erected.
This cultural explosion of unprecedented Neolithic construction resulted from the arrival of a people displaced from their outside homeland by a natural catastrophe caused by the near miss of Comet Encke around 3100 BCE. That they were already in possession of megalith-building skills is self-evident in the sudden, simultaneous appearance of already sophisticated stone structures arranged in huge complexes from north of Scotland to the south of England. Neolithic Britain’s second, major surge of activity likewise occurred about one thousand years later, just as Comets Encke, Oljato and Hale Bopp converged near Earth’s orbit. W. Bruce Masse, an environmental archaeologist with the U.S. Air Force, concludes that, “the period 2350 to 2000 BC witnessed at least four cosmic impacts (ca. BC 2345, 2240, 2188, 2000) and perhaps a fifth (circa 2297 to 2265 BCE).”
During this period, a three hundred fifty-nine-megaton asteroid exploded over Argentina, leaving a series of impact craters across the Rio Cuarto area. At the same time, according to Maltese researcher, Anton Mifsud, a large land bridge between Malta and the nearby island of Filfla cataclysmically collapsed, generating giant waves that flooded the whole archipelago and brought about the end of Neolithic civilization on Malta. Traces of major faulting in the submarine Pantelleria Rift upon which both islands sit have been dated to 2200 BCE. Swedish geologists, Lars Franzen and Thomas B. Larrson, found in their geologic material “indications of strongly increased atmospheric circulation in rhythmically appearing periods” throughout the Bronze Age, with a high peak in the late third millennium BCE.
Ash-fall from the Icelandic volcano, Hekla-4, dates a major eruption to about 2290 BCE. Irish oak chronologies display evidence of an extraordinary “narrowest ring” event in 2345 BCE, which, paleo-climatologist Michael Baillie believes, “could have a cometary relationship.” Radiocarbon dating of flood-plain deposits in central England’s Ripple Brook catchment evidenced drastic increases of sediment deposition. One of the seventeenth century’s greatest scientists, William Whiston, successor to Isaac Newton at Cambridge, concluded that the Old Testament deluge of 2349 BCE was brought about by the near miss of a large comet.
Stonehenge reached its final construction stage immediately after Comet Encke made its third pass, leaving a “dust veil event” of ash in it wake. During the 1980s and ’90s, a team of dendrochronologists from Cornell University, led by Peter Kuniholm, found a sudden growth spurt in British tree rings. A log from a Swedish bog showed the same ash fall accompanied climate regression from 1636 to 1632 BCE. It occurred in concert with particularly severe volcanic eruptions throughout the Aegean and the South Pacific. Resulting iron spherules were recovered from Tunisian peat bogs. “Their heterogeneous composition,” according to Larsson and Franzen, “points to another formation mechanism (other than volcanism), maybe comet or asteroid impacts in ocean shelf sediments.”
The British Red Ochre and Bell Beaker Cultures were snuffed out. But the inhabitants of Superhenge and its Neolithic environs quickly recovered to prosper for another three centuries, until their time ended no less abruptly and thoroughly around 1200 BCE. It was then that the killer comet made its closest approach to Earth. Geologist Robert Hewitt described the turn of the thirteenth century BCE as “a catastrophe, which was one of the worst in world history.”
Larsson and Franzen “take the liberty to suggest that relatively large extraterrestrial bodies hit somewhere in the eastern North Atlantic, probably on the shelf of the Atlantic coast of North Africa or southern Europe around 1000 to 950 BCE, mainly affecting the Mediterranean parts of Africa and Europe, but also globally.” Both felt compelled by the geologic evidence to “propose that cosmic activity could offer an explanation for the observed changes. We even suggest that relatively large asteroids or comets (c. 0.5 kilometer diameter) hit somewhere in the eastern Atlantic.” The cometary barrage was worldwide. West of Broken Bow, Nebraska, lies a mile-wide impact crater created approximately three thousand years ago by a meteor, which exploded with the equivalent force of a one hundred twenty-megaton nuclear blast.
Greenland’s Camp Century ice cores reveal that a global catastrophe threw several thousand cubic kilometers of ash into the atmosphere about 1170 BCE.
Vulcanism around the world, triggered by meteoric impacts, peaked at the close of the thirteenth century BCE. Outstanding eruptions occurred in Arabia, Russia’s Avachinsky and Sheveluch volcanoes near the Pacific Ocean on the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Japanese Atami-san, North America’s Mount Saint Helens, California’s Mount Shasta, Oregon’s Newberry and Belknap volcanoes, and Central America’s San Salvador volcano. Atlantic Ocean volcanism was widespread, with events in Iceland (Hekla), Ascension Island, Candlemas, the Azores (Mount Furnas), the Canaries (Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura and Lanzarote). Baillie concluded that “there were two major temperature troughs around 1600 BC and 1100 BCE” The latter, “the most marked one, can be traced in many other parts of the world, including Europe, the Americas, the Near East and the Antarctic.”
Flooding across Europe was so great, perhaps unequaled before or since in known history or prehistory, that new lakes formed in Germany near Memmingen, Munich, Ravensburg, and Toelz. Lake levels rose dramatically throughout Northern Ireland, such as Loughbashade. In the German Rhineland, a vast majority of oak trunks show clear signs of massive flooding around 1000 BCE. In horrible contrast, Bavaria’s entire Black Forest was incinerated. A vast area of low-lying land, where several large rivers converged, totally submerges the Hungarian Plain in catastrophic flooding. The largest soda lake on Earth, Turkey’s Lake Van, rose two hundred fifty feet in about two years. Climatologists calculated that such an increase would have required approximately one hundred fifty inches of rainfall. Tree-ring sequences compiled by Peter Kuniholm showed that climate deterioration reached its peak in Turkey from about 1185 to 1141 BCE. The British Isles was almost totally depopulated, thereby accounting for the thorough abandonment of Superhenge with all its related works and the dark ages that hung like an impenetrable ash cloud over England until the arrival of the Kelts from the European Continent, eight hundred years later.
Each one of Neolithic Britain’s four, major cultural phases was exactly paralleled by as many close calls our planet experienced with the catastrophic passages of Comet Encke around 3100 BCE, 2100 BCE, 1600 BC.E, and 1200 BCE. These cataclysmic event horizons are not only associated with the influx of technologically sophisticated populations on Wiltshire’s Salisbury Plain and their impact on New Stone Age developments there, but identifies these outsiders as survivors from the natural calamities that beset Atlantis. They fled en masse from every such disaster, many or most of them finding refuge at the nearest landfall on the shores of southern England. Their identity is more than supposed, but physically embodied in Stonehenge itself.
For example, the sacred numerals, Five and Six, incorporated in Atlantean architecture, according to the Kritias—Plato’s account of the lost city—recur throughout Stonehenge. The structure even resembles the concentric city-plan of Atlantis itself. Stonehenge was first laid out by 3100 BCE, began to reach the apex of its construction fifteen hundred years later, and was suddenly discontinued around 1200 BC. Its development, use and abandonment coincided, I believe, with Atlantean immigration at the close of the fourth millennium BC, the zenith of Atlantis as the foremost Bronze Age civilization, and final destruction in 1198 BC, as documented in the so-called “Harris Papyrus,” a late New Kingdom written record of extraordinary natural phenomena accompanying the investiture of Pharaoh Ramses III and inscribed on his temple walls at Medinet Habu, in Lower Egypt.
If the history of our species has been Man’s capability or inability to adapt to environmental change, then the rise and fall of Neolithic Britain becomes clear in the context of the natural challenges we faced and that sometimes overwhelmed us. Today, we are manufacturing our own challenges which coming generations will be no less hard-pressed to overcome.