Is Stonehenge's sister a Henge, Barrow or Fence?
Back in July the discovery of a New Henge was given extensive media coverage following a geophysical survey by University of Birmingham and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Austria. 
This new discovery immediately south of the Curus Barrows and some 900m (2,950ft) NW of the most famous megalithic monument in the world was hailed as Stonehenge’s “long-lost twin” or “sister” and described as the most exciting find there in 50 years.
The University of Birmingham Press Release stated:
“History is set to be rewritten after an archaeology team led by the University of Birmingham and the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology in Austria discovered a major ceremonial monument less than one kilometre away from the iconic Stonehenge. The incredible find has been hailed by Professor Vince Gaffney, from the University’s IBM Visual and Spatial Technology Centre, as one of the most significant yet for those researching the UK’s most important prehistoric structure.”
Project leader Professor Gaffney added: "You seem to have a large-ditched feature, but it seems to be made of individual scoops rather than just a straight trench. When we looked a bit more closely, we then realised there was a ring of pits about a metre wide going all the way around the edge. When you see that as an archaeologist, you just looked at it and thought, 'that's a henge monument' - it's a timber equivalent to Stonehenge.” 
The team also claimed that the Henge had been built about 5,000 years ago, making it roughly the same age as Stonehenge and just like its sister site said to be aligned on the summer solstice.
Bold claims indeed. But perhaps the discovery of a ploughed-out barrow should really have come as no surprise as Stonehenge has one of the largest concentrations of barrows in north-west Europe surrounding the monument's skyline. With many barrows obliterated by modern agricultural techniques there must be many more in the vicinity awaiting to be found, which, hopefully the three year project will unearth.
Henge or Barrow?
The discussion immediately moved to whether the new discovery was actually a Henge or a Barrow. The scan showed a ring of about 10 large dark spots, initially thought to probably be deep pits; set within this a was ring of 24 smaller and lighter circular spots interpreted as postholes. In the centre was a darker area thought to be the remnant of a mound of a barrow since ploughed over. 
An irregular ditch, in two arcs, containing the large pits, was claimed to be indicative of a henge; there are no obvious signs of the bank beyond the ditch on the geophysics scan, long ago victim to the plough.
The discussion then moved onto whether the large pits held wooden posts or stone megaliths, with a bout of 'bluestonemania' leading to suggestions that the pits at about 1m (3ft) wide were identical in size to bluestone holes in a 10m diameter circle of 25 stone pits, found at the so-called 'Bluestonehenge' by the terminus of the Stonehenge Avenue at the river Avon discovered last year.
Of course a timber henge would not fit with the recent proposal by Stonehenge Riverside Project (SRP) that Stonehenge was a Royal cemetery and its megalithic environs was the domain of the dead and timber, as at the nearby Woodhenge and Durrington Walls, the domain of the living.
Henge or Barrow, stone or timber, it all seems rather confusing and sceptics have pointed out that the scan released by the project team shows the ring of post holes appear to be arranged in an angular pattern more like a hexagon, rather than in a circle as found in a typical henge or barrow.
A Press Release today by the Daily Mail states Mike Pitts claims to have been prompted to study old maps of the area after receiving a letter from an American reader. Pitts and colleagues examined an old Ordnance Survey map from the 1970's and saw a fence marked out, which he suspected to be of early 20th Century construction, erected by the Office of Works or a local farmer.
Pitts is reported as saying: ‘Vince Gaffney says his discovery encircles a burial mound within its circumference, but unless he has some unpublished material to substantiate his discovery, I am in no doubt that this was a modern fence line. If I’m right then the post holes contained modern fencing stakes and they are actually in a hexagonal shape, not a circle.’
He added: ‘I think that perhaps what has happened is that the professor’s field workers have presented him with the wrong picture and he’s shot from the hip and made an over-hasty announcement. He’s generally known for the high quality of his work and his enthusiasm which, on this occasion, may have let him down'.
Gaffney replied: ‘We have mapped numerous fences and we know what they look like. The features appear to be 3ft across and as deep as 3ft. I have never seen a fence line that required holes that are 3ft across and 3ft deep.’ He added that no metal had been found in the holes, like old nails, which would be expected if it was indeed a fence. 
Henge or Barrow, this monument clearly is nothing on the scale of Stonehenge and claims of it being a 'sister-henge' are far stretched to say the least. The map print looks pretty conclusive to me but the only way to resolve this matter is for an excavation of the site and full publication of the results.
1. Archaeologists unearth Neolithic henge at Stonehenge, BBC News online 22 July 2010.
2. How significant is the 'new henge'? By Mike Pitts Editor, British Archaeology magazine, BBC News online 22 July 2010.
3. Analysing the new site near Stonehenge – Mike Pitts, Digging Deeper.
4. Stonehenge News & Information 12/12/10.
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