British archaeologists have found two ancient graves near Stonehenge.
The discovery was the result of a survey of a 2-mile-long area just south of the monument. It’s a required step before a new highway tunnel can be constructed under Stonehenge; government officials approved the tunnel last year but stipulated that the land must first be searched for artifacts.
Stonehenge is one of the most impressive prehistoric megalithic monuments in the world on account of the sheer size of its megaliths, the sophistication of its concentric plan and architectural design, the shaping of the stones – uniquely using both Wiltshire Sarsen sandstone and Pembroke Bluestone – and the precision with which it was built.
The surveyors found the grave of a young woman and another with bones from a baby about a mile southwest of the monument. Both graves date back roughly 4,500 years, which is roughly the age of the bluestones that make up Stonehenge’s inner circle.
According to Matt Leivers, an archaeologist with Wessex Archaeology who is helping to survey the area, the woman and baby were likely related to the people who erected the monument.
The baby’s grave contained tiny ear bones, while the young woman’s skeleton suggests she died in her 20s or 30s. According to Leivers, both individuals were part of the Beaker culture, a group of people who lived in Europe between about 4,000 and 5,000 years ago.
The Beaker people are named after the pottery vessels they were typically buried with, which serve as markers of their identity, Leivers said. The infant was buried near a plain beaker, the woman was curled around an ornate one.
The woman’s grave also contained an object made from shale, pictured below.