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Settlement that housed Stonehenge's builders unearthed

This photo shows archaeologist trenches revealing clay floors of Neolithic houses at Durrington Walls, which was occupied by the builders of Stonehenge.
This photo shows archaeologist trenches revealing clay floors of Neolithic houses at Durrington Walls, which was occupied by the builders of Stonehenge. (National Geographic Society)

British archaeologists have discovered the homes of the ancient people who built Stonehenge, a massive settlement near a river that will likely open an important new chapter in the study of one of the world’s most famous monuments.

The settlement, located at a site called Durrington Walls, once housed hundreds of people, and dates to around 2600 BC, the scientists said at a press conference this morning. It is the largest settlement from the Neolithic time period ever found in Britain.

The discoveries, they said, suggests that Stonehenge is only part of a much larger, interconnected set of religious sites devoted to honoring the dead. The find -- a stretch of clay-floored houses crowding around a massive, newly-discovered stone boulevard -- is important, they said, because it will allow archeologists to start weaving these sites together, and will help them understand lives of the mysterious people who built the monuments two miles apart.

''This is a major find,'' said Curtis Runnels, who was not a part of the team, and is a professor of archaeology at Boston University and editor of the Journal of Field Archaeology.

The work was led by Mike Parker Pearson of Sheffield University and Julian Thomas of Manchester University. They described the find at a press conference this morning organized by the National Geographic Society, which helped fund the work.

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