TWO-HOUR PROGRAM PREMIERES SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 21 AT 8PM ET/PT
Five-year Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project Reveals Lost Monuments, Dramatic Picture of Stone Circle As Hub of Ancient Valley of the Kings
New York, NY, September 10, 2014 - Stonehenge is one of the world's most iconic monuments, yet despite centuries of intense scrutiny many of the biggest questions about its inspiration, origins and evolution remain unanswered. Now, STONEHENGE EMPIRE, a new two-hour Smithsonian Channel special premiering Sunday, September 21 at 8 p.m. ET/PT, exclusively reveals the results of a five-year project that utilized revolutionary new technology to map the whole area around the site and reveal what lies beneath the surface. Drawing on this new data, alongside state-of-the art CGI and dramatic reconstructions, STONEHENGE EMPIRE provides the most complete picture ever of Stonehenge and the prehistoric culture that flourished around it.
Stonehenge has been a magnet for archaeologists for centuries, but this new 21st Century research has achieved, in just a few years, what conventional excavation would have taken a lifetime to complete. Led by experts from the University of Birmingham in the UK, and the Ludwig Boltzman Institute in Austria, the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project used state of the art survey equipment, including ground penetrating radar (GPR) and aerial photography, to "peel away" the surface of about 5-1/2 square miles around the site, and show how seemingly empty fields contain myriad hidden structures.
"This is the culmination of five years of research, a two-hour special which reveals for the first time a megalithic Valley of the Kings," said David Royle, Smithsonian Channel's Executive Vice President of Programming and Production. "Smithsonian Channel prides itself on bringing this scale of groundbreaking scientific discovery to the American public."
"The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project is unique at a global level. Not only has it revolutionized how archaeologists use new technologies to interpret the past, it has transformed how we understand Stonehenge and its landscape," said British project leader Professor Vincent Gaffney, Chair in Landscape Archaeology and Geomatics at the University of Birmingham. "This project has revealed that the area around Stonehenge is teeming with previously unseen archaeology and that the application of new technology can transform how archaeologists and the wider public understand one of the best-studied landscapes on Earth. Stonehenge may never be the same again."
"A site like Stonehenge can only be understood by looking at the monuments around it and how that landscape has evolved," said Dr. Henry Chapman, archaeologist at the University of Birmingham, who appears in the film. Thanks to these new technologies, he added "we've got as complete a picture as we can ever have of the entire landscape. We're reinventing Stonehenge for this generation."
The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project is the largest project of its kind. Remote sensing has discovered hundreds of new features enabling the creation of the most detailed archaeological digital map of the Stonehenge landscape ever produced. The startling results of the survey, unveiled today at the British Science Festival, include 17 previously unknown ritual monuments dating to the period when Stonehenge achieved its iconic shape. Dozens of burial mounds have been mapped in minute detail, including a long barrow (a burial mound dating to before Stonehenge) which reveals a massive timber building, probably used to prepare the dead for burial, a ritual that involved exposure and removal of flesh from the body.
With the benefit of this new archaeological evidence, STONEHENGE EMPIRE also features other new scientific discoveries. The program delivers an unprecedented and comprehensive assessment of the whole site and its 10,000 year chronology, demonstrating that Stonehenge was the crowning achievement and epicenter of a truly remarkable and highly sophisticated civilization that had mastered deep mining, precision engineering, intricate gold working and state-of-the art metallurgy, alongside complex astronomy and mathematics.
STONEHENGE EMPIRE unveils new evidence about why and how the site grew and developed, from its earliest prototype into its current form; how the large stones were transported to the iconic circle; and how and where the people who built Stonehenge over centuries lived.
The project has also revealed new and unexpected information on previously known monuments. Among the most significant relate to the Durrington Walls "super henge," situated a short distance from Stonehenge. This immense ritual monument, probably the largest of its type in the world, has a circumference of nearly a mile. The Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project reveals that at one stage the monument was flanked with a row of massive posts or stones, perhaps up to 10 feet high and up to 60 in number - some of which may still survive beneath the massive banks surrounding the monument. Only revealed by the cutting-edge technology used in the project, the survey has added yet another dimension to this vast and enigmatic structure.
STONEHENGE EMPIRE is produced by October Films, Lightship Entertainment and Interspot Films and is a co-production of Smithsonian Channel, BBC Two, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), France 5, ORF Austria and ZDF Germany. Executive Producers for October Films are Adam Bullmore, Terence McKeown and Heinrich Mayer-Moroni. Executive Producers for Smithsonian Channel are David Royle and Charles Poe.
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