Construction of the tunnel underneath Stonehenge will begin in 2021.
Cj Smith / EyeEm—Getty Images/EyeEm
By George Steer
December 6, 2018

Archaeologists have accused road workers of damaging a 6,000-year-old structure close to Stonehenge, the world-famous prehistoric stone circle monument in the United Kingdom.

Highways England, the body in charge of constructing a controversial new tunnel that will re-route traffic underneath the Stonehenge site, has been accused of digging a hole through a platform made from flint and animal bone around 4,000 BCE. The damage was allegedly done when workers at Blick Mead – an archaeological site 1.5 miles from Stonehenge proper – dug a 10-foot-deep hole through a platform that preserves the hoof prints of aurochs, wild cattle that have been extinct for hundreds of years.

The incident has angered the archaeological team that is working with Highways England to preserve the prehistoric site. David Jacques, the lead archaeologist, told the BBC that engineers did not consult him before starting the work. He described the damage as “a travesty.”

“We took great care to excavate this platform and the aurochs’ hoof-prints,” he said. “We believe hunters considered this area to be a sacred place even before Stonehenge.”

Construction workers had been attempting to ascertain whether the proposed tunnel would cause the water table at Blick Mead to drop, damaging remains preserved in the water-logged ground.

“We are not aware of any damage being caused to archaeological layers,” said a spokesperson for Highways England in a statement. “We notified Professor David Jacques of the locations of our water table monitoring, and have adhered to guidelines in carrying out the work”.

Stonehenge is one of the most famous landmarks in the United Kingdom, and was made a UNESCO World heritage site in 1986. Campaigners argue the tunnel will damage both the archaeology and the local environment.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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