Washington, Feb 13 (ANI): A new study has indicated that Stonehenge may have been surrounded by a hedge that blocked onlookers from seeing secret rituals.
According to National Geographic News, evidence for two encircling hedges-possibly thorn bushes-planted some 3,600 years ago, was uncovered during a survey of the site by English Heritage, the government agency responsible for maintaining the monument in southern England.
The idea that Stonehedge was a shield against prying eyes isn't yet firmly rooted, but it's archaeologists' leading theory.
For instance, the newfound banks are too low and unsubstantial to have had a defensive role.
"The best (theory) we can come up with is some sort of hedge bank," said English Heritage archaeologist David Field, whose team discovered the two landscape features in April 2009.
"We think they served as some sort of screen to filter access to the center (of Stonehenge)," he added.
The shallow earthworks are just visible to an expert eye, "but you need to get down on your hands and knees" to see them, Field added.
The archaeologists didn't find any physical evidence of vegetation, but the shallow features resemble former hedge banks that are seen around formerly hedged fields.
While there's no firm evidence for a British prehistoric landscape-gardening tradition, there's evidence for tree cultivation at the time Stonehenge was in use.
"It seems standard-size trees were being cultivated and looked after in order to provide straight, telegraph-pole-like features for the construction of palisades (fences of defensive stakes) and so on," Field said.
With that in mind, Stonehedge's "vegetation screens are quite feasible," Field said. "Something like thorn bushes ... or small trees," he added.
The latest finds, reported in the March/April edition of British Archaeology magazine, come "completely out of the blue," according to editor Mike Pitts, an archaeologist and Stonehenge expert.
While Pitts thinks the hedge theory is "a perfectly reasonable explanation ... there have been no excavations of these features, so until that happens we won't really know what's going on." (ANI)