Stonehenge discovery could rewrite British pre-history.
Archaeologists have discovered the earliest settlement at Stonehenge – but the Mesolithic camp could be destroyed if government plans for a new tunnel go ahead.
Charcoal dug up from the ‘Blick Mead’ encampment, a mile and a half from Stonehenge, dates from around 4,000BC. It is thought the site was originally occupied by hunter gatherers returning to Britain after the Ice Age, when the country was still connected to the continent.
Experts say the discovery could re-write history in prehistoric Britain.
There is also evidence of feasting – burnt flints and remains of giant bulls – aurochs – as well as flint tools.
The dig has also unearthed evidence of possible structures, but the site could be destroyed if plans for a 1.8 mile tunnel go ahead.
Earlier this month David Cameron, the prime minister, visited Stonehenge, in Amesbury, Wiltshire and announced plans to dual the A303 and build a new tunnel to take traffic away from the world heritage site.
But archaeologists want more time to assess the importance of the site and record new findings.
“The PM is interested in re-election in 140 days – we are interested in discovering how our ancestors lived six thousand years ago,” said archaeologist David Jacques, who made the discovery on a dig for the University of Buckingham.
“British pre-History may have to be rewritten. This is the latest dated Mesolithic encampment ever found in the UK.
“Blick Mead site connects the early hunter gatherer groups returning to Britain after the Ice Age to the Stonehenge area all the way through to the Neolithic in the late 5th Millennium BC.
“Britain is beginning across this time period. Blick Mead connects a time when the country was still joined to the mainland to it becoming the British Isles for the first time.”
The experts believe that the site could show the Stonehenge was built as a monument to the ancestors of Neolithic Britons.
“Our only chance to find out about the earliest chapter of Britain’s history could be wrecked if the tunnel goes ahead,” added Mr Jacques.
A previous dig at the site, led by the University of Buckingham, revealed Amesbury is the longest continually-occupied place in the country. They discovered that frogs’ legs from 7,000 years ago were a delicacy here long before the French took a liking to them.
Archaeologists believe that early Britons were drawn to the site because of a natural spring. A The combination of a water of a constant temperature and a rare alga also produced the only colour-changing stones, which change from brown to pink, found at any archaeological site in the country.
Professor Tim Darvill, of Bournemouth University has described this as “This is the most important discovery at Stonehenge in over 60 years.”
Experts are calling on the government to rethink plans to build on the critically important landscape.
Andy Rhind-Tutt, of Amesbury and chairman of the Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust, added: “Traffic congestion to one of the country’s most visited attractions will not be solved by a tunnel with one exit lane – the current tailback can extend five miles and can take two hours to get through.
“Any tunnel would need to be motorway standard, and even with four lanes there would still be tailbacks.
“A much more practical solution would be to reroute the A303 supporting South Wiltshire as well as the West Country.”