Washington, June 11 : An archaeologist at the University of Manchester says that the Greater Stonehenge Cursus may have been there since about 3,500 years BC, making the structure 500 years older than the circle itself.
Professor Julian Thomas and his colleagues could pinpoint the age of the ancient monument after finding an antler pick used to dig the Cursus, which they say is the most significant find since English antiquarian William Stukeley discovered it in 1723.
He says that upon performing carbon dating on the pick, the results pointed to an age that was much older than previously thought, between 3600 and 3300 BC.
The excavation was carried out last summer by a collaboration of five British universities, and was funded by the Arts and Histories Research Council and the National Geographic Society.
"The Stonehenge Cursus is a 100 metre wide mile long area which runs about 500 metres north of Stonehenge," Science Daily quoted Professor Thomas as saying.
"We don't know what it was used for - but we do know it encloses a pathway which has been made inaccessible. And that suggests it was either a sanctified area or for some reason was cursed," he added.
He says that the Curcus might have been a part of a complex of monuments within which Stonehenge was later built.
Professor Thomas has revealed that archaeologists associated with the project have also dated the 'Lesser Stonehenge Cursus', and a series of long barrows, all built within a mile of Henge.
"Our colleagues led by a team from Sheffield University have also dated some of the cremated human remains from Stonehenge itself," he said.
"That's caused another sensational discovery and proves that burial cremation had been taking place at Stonehenge as early as 2900 BC - soon after the monument was first built.
"But what is still so intriguing about the Cursus is that it's about 500 years older than Henge - that strongly suggests there was a link and was very possibly a precursor.
"We hope more discoveries lie in store when we work on the Eastern end of the Cursus this summer.
"It will be a big step forward in our understanding of this enigmatic monument," he added.