British archeologists have discovered more than two dozen houses belonging to the ancient people who built Stonehenge, a find that is likely to open an important new chapter in the study of one of the world's most famous monuments.
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The settlement, about two miles north of Stonehenge at a site called Durrington Walls, apparently housed hundreds of people and dates to around 2600 B.C., the same period when Stonehenge's blocks were erected. Tuesday, the archeologists said they also uncovered a large stone boulevard between the houses and determined that nearby ruins are a timber circle that echoes many of the features of Stonehenge.
The discovery suggests Stonehenge is just part of a broader, interconnected religious site devoted to honoring ancestors and celebrating the cycle of life and death symbolized by the seasons. Durrington Walls, they said, was a place for the living, and is littered with animal bones from midwinter feasts. From there, they suggest, people may have walked to the river Avon on the stone boulevard, traveled down the river, and then up a similar boulevard to Stonehenge, whose great blocks likely served as a memorial to the dead.