for National Geographic News
Recent excavations of Salisbury Plain in southern England have revealed at least two other large stone formations close by the world-famous prehistoric monument.
One of the megalithic finds is a sandstone formation that marked a ritual burial mound; the other, a group of stones at the site of an ancient timber circle.
The new discoveries suggest that many similar monuments may have been erected in the shadow of Stonehenge, possibly forming part of a much larger complex, experts say.
The first monument—a 9.2-foot-long (2.8-meter-long) sarsen stone—was found lying in a field next to the River Avon, 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) east of Stonehenge, which is located near the modern-day city of Salisbury (United Kingdom map).
The riverside sarsen—large sandstone blocks that occur naturally in southern England—had been stood upright, archaeologists say, like the blocks that form the main structure of Stonehenge.
A team lead by Colin Richards of Manchester University and Joshua Pollard of Bristol University found the hole that originally held the stone, dug between 2500 and 2000 B.C., as well as human remains and artifacts that date to the same period.
The partially cremated remains of two people were buried next to the stone, Pollard said. One was a large male whose unburned vertebrae suggest he was at least 6 feet (182 centimeters) tall.
"Seemingly he was so big they weren't able to cremate him properly," the archaeologist noted. "The unburnt bone is the product of that poor process of cremation."
Stone knives and arrowheads, a piece of limestone carved into the shape of a megalith, two pottery bowls, and a rare rock crystal were also unearthed near the burial site.
The rock crystal find is the earliest known example from Britain and possibly came from as far away as the Alps, Pollard said.
Archaeologists have suggested that other prehistoric burials in the area were connected to mainland Europe, Pollard added.
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