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Stonehenge Secrets Revealed by Unusually Dry Summer

Sep 03, 2014 02:22 PM EDT

A dry summer, a short garden hose, and an attentive groundskeeper is apparently all you need to make what experts are calling a "significant" archaeological discovery at Stonehenge.

That's at least what sparked a recent revelation about the ancient and iconic landmark, as detailed in a study recently published in the journal Antiquity.

According to the study, it is has long been suspected that Stonehenge was once a full circle structure, but there was never enough geophysical evidence to fully support this theory. And while that certainly doesn't seem like a big deal, the original structure of the landmark can have some huge implications on what its purpose could have been, or whether it was even ever completed.

Then, in 2013, the typically lush green grasses around the site began to turn brown. Wiltshire, England was experiencing unusually dry weather that summer, and parched grasses in the region were beginning to die under a harsh sun.

According to BBC News, that's when groundskeeper Tim Daw made an unexpected discovery.

"I was standing on the public path looking at the grass near the stones and thinking that we needed to find a longer hosepipe to get the parched patches to green up," he told BBC. "A sudden lightbulb moment in my head, and I remembered that the marks were where archaeologists had looked without success for signs that there had been stone holes, and that parch marks can signify them."

Not having archaeological or geological expertise, Daw and a colleague quickly contacted English Heritage, who oversees the monument.

Researchers inspected the parch marks and after careful analysis, confirmed that indeed they could indicate that stones had once been there that were now mysteriously gone. The authors concluded in what they are calling a "really significant" discovery, that Stonehenge was once a complete circle.

"A lot of people assume we've excavated the entire site and everything we're ever going to know about the monument is known," said Susan Greaney of English Heritage.

"But actually there's quite a lot we still don't know and there's quite a lot that can be discovered just through non-excavation methods."

Daw added that the greatest miracle in all of this is that had they had a longer hosepipe, this never would have been found.

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