staff and news service reports
updated 10/3/2009 3:11:20 PM ET 2009-10-03T19:11:20

Archaeologists have discovered a smaller prehistoric site near Britain's famous circle of standing stones at Stonehenge.

Researchers have dubbed the site "Bluehenge," after the color of the 27 Welsh stones that were laid to make up a path. The stones have disappeared, but the path of holes remains.

The new circle, unearthed over the summer by researchers from Sheffield University, represents an important find, researchers said Saturday. The site is about a mile away from Stonehenge.

Bluehenge, about 80 miles southwest of London, is believed to date back to about the time Stonehenge was built, about 5,000 years ago.

Mike Parker Pearson of Sheffield University said he believed the path and Stonehenge itself were linked to rituals of life and death.

Parker Pearson suggested that the ancient funerary rituals began at a different circle site known as "Woodhenge," which represented the world of the living. The bodies of the dead were then brought down the River Avon to Bluehenge, which represented death, and were finally carried along a ceremonial route known as the Avenue to Stonehenge.

Bournemouth University Professor Tim Darvill, an expert on Stonehenge, told Britain's Daily Mail that Bluehenge "adds to the richness" of the ancient site's story.

"This henge is very important because it forms part of the picture of ceremonial monuments in the area and puts Stonehenge into context," Darvill was quoted as saying. "It's no longer Stonehenge standing alone, but it has to be seen in context with the landscape."

This report includes information from The Associated Press and

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