For the last two years, archeologists and historians have been saying that a plan to build a 1.8-mile tunnel that goes underneath Stonehenge could have potentially disastrous effects on the surrounding areas and ruin efforts to uncover more evidence about the region’s ancestors. Today, it seems, they might have been onto something.
People like archeologist David Jacques have been opposed to the construction of the underground tunnel, which would be accessible from inside the popular landmark, from the get-go, arguing that it could interfere with work being done at Blick Mead, an archeological site about 1.5 miles from Stonehenge. Now, Jacques accuses construction workers of digging a 10-foot deep hole through a platform “made of flint and animal bone around 4,000 BCE,” according to TIME. Jacques, who is the lead archeologist at Blick Mead, tells the BBC he was not consulted before engineers started digging and calls it “a travesty.”
The ancient platform had hoof prints of aurochs, which were wild cattle that have long been extinct. Jacques believes that those hoof prints suggest that hunters “considered this to be a sacred place even before Stonehenge,” according to TIME.
A spokesperson for Highways England denies that they know of any damage caused by the construction.
This is just the first major scuffle between the forward-looking construction team behind the tunnel and its advocates, like local politicians who say the tunnel will bring business to the area, and those with an eye towards history who fear for the integrity of the UNESCO World heritage site. If I had to guess, I’d say it almost certainly won’t be the last. Jacques is also concerned that construction at Blick Mead will lower the water table—something he flagged as early at January 2017. That would cause “all the organic remains”—like animal bones—to be “destroyed.”
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He adds, “If the remains aren’t preserved we may never be able to understand why Stonehenge was built.” It seems that’s a risk that the team behind the underground tunnel is increasingly comfortable taking on.