The Government says it will go ahead with plans to build a road tunnel past Stonehenge despite warnings from archaeologists that it could destroy new evidence of the monument’s mysterious origins.
Historical experts said the evidence hidden at a newly discovered site, a 6,000 year old settlement where Stonehenge’s builders are believed to have lived, could lead to British pre-history being “rewritten”.
The find is located at Blick Mead, a mile and a half from Stonehenge, and archaeologists want to excavate further to look for clues as to why the stone circle was built.
The reason for the construction of the stone circle has long eluded historians.
“Blick Mead could explain what archaeologists have been searching for for centuries – an answer to the story of Stonehenge’s past,” said David Jacques, the archaeologist at the University of Buckingham who discovered the encampment. “British pre-history may have to be rewritten.”
“But our only chance to find out about the earliest chapter of Britain’s history could be wrecked if the tunnel goes ahead,” he added.
Blick Mead is part of the wider Vespasian’s Camp area, which is bordered by the existing single carriageway A303 at its northern edge.
The planned road tunnel is planned to be 1.8 miles long and would be built to dual carriageway “expressway standard”.
The A303 is currently single carriageway when it goes past Stonehenge.
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport promised that the Government would protect sites of significance and consult on the plans as they progressed.
“As with any road scheme, we will consult with interested parties before any building begins on the A303. English Heritage and National Trust are supportive of our plans, and we will ensure sites of cultural or historical significance are safeguarded as we progress with the upgrade,” the spokesperson said.
The tunnel is part of a £2bn revamp to the A303 which could see the entire road upgraded. It is the largest road-widening project planned in Britain for the next 15 years.
A spokesperson for English Heritage said the organisation would have to examine the specifics of the new finds before it could comment fully.
"We are unable to comment on the archaeological work carried out by the University of Buckingham because they have not shared their results directly with us, though we are interested to see any new research about the Stonehenge landscape,” the spokesperson said.
“As yet, the Government has issued no specific plans for turning part of the A303 by Stonehenge into a tunnel but as far as we understand, any portal would be located within the existing dual carriageway section of the road and subject to careful survey.
“If designed well, putting the A303 into a tunnel of at least 2.9km will bring the Stonehenge landscape together once more, creating space for nature and improving the site's tranquillity."
At the announcement of the tunnel earlier this month, the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, said widening the road would "address this area’s economic needs for the future".
"Our Long term-economic plan means today we can invest £2 billion into the region’s infrastructure to improve, repair and expand our roads," he said,
"For years our roads like the A303 have been neglected. Now that this government is fixing the economy, we can afford to invest properly in our roads – unlocking jobs and local growth by creating a road network that is fit for the 21st century."
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