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Buried megaliths discovered at stone circle site

Archaeologists have discovered an arc of buried megaliths that once formed part of the great stone circle at Avebury in Wiltshire.

The National Trust says the existence of these enormous stones, originally constructed more than 4,500 years ago, has remained a puzzle for the last 300 years.

Visitors to Avebury will see most of the standing megaliths in the western half of the stone circle.

The famous map of Avebury drawn up by William Stukely in the 1720s showed that many of the stones in the south east and north east quadrants of the circle were missing.

Now, the first ever geophysics survey of these areas of Avebury, carried out by the National Trust, has revealed that at least 15 of the megaliths lie buried in the circle itself.

The massive stones show up very clearly as computer images and the National Trust has been able to identify their sizes, the direction in which they are lying and where they fit in the circle.

Martin Papworth, the National Trust's archaeologist for Wessex said: "This is a truly exciting find and completes the circle of Avebury.

"These stones were erected over 4,500 years ago and the world of archaeology suspected that most of these stones had been demolished and lost forever.

"We know that many of the Avebury stones still standing up to three hundred years ago were broken up for building stone in the 17th and 18th century.

"Until now, no-one had realised that some of these stones had survived intact and that they actually lay buried in the earth, next to their original locations."

Now, although the National Trust said it has no plans to raise the stones that have been so well protected by the earth for around 700 years, it is considering using ground probing radar to create three dimensional images of each of the buried stones and raise them as computer images.

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