TWO 6,000-year-old tombs have been unearthed in Hampshire in one of the biggest archaeological finds for years.
The discovery, thought to be among the oldest ever made in the UK, is set to shed new light on the life led by the county’s earliest settlers.
Flint tools and fragments of pottery have already been retrieved from the Neolithic site at Damerham in the New Forest.
The nationally important find has been made by a team of experts from Kingston University in London.
Archaeologist Dr Helen Wickstead said she and her colleagues were “stunned and delighted” when evidence of the prehistoric complex came to light.
She added: “Some artefacts have already been recovered and in the summer a team of volunteers will make a systematic survey on the site.
“If we can excavate, we’ll learn a lot more about Neolithic people in the area and discover things such as who was buried there, what kind of life they led and what the environment was like 6,000 years ago.”
The site, 15 miles from Stonehenge, is close to Cranborne Chase, one of the most thoroughly researched prehistoric areas in Europe.
Last night New Forest author and historian Peter Roberts described the find as extremely rare.
The former New Forest Verderer added: “It’s clearly very exciting and will throw new light on the settlements between Cranborne Chase and the Forest.”
The tombs were discovered after staff from English Heritage studied aerial photographs of farmland in the Damerham area and saw signs of buried archaeological sites.
Dr Wickstead said she was astonished that the monuments had remained undiscovered for so long.
She added: “Cranborne Chase is one of the most famous prehistoric landscapes, a mecca for prehistorians. You’d have thought the archaeological world would have gone over it with a fine tooth comb.”
The team has vowed that any human bones found in the tombs will be treated with dignity.
“The recovery of ancient human remains is always handled sensitively,” added Dr Wickstead. “We feel respect for the dead people we study and we treat their remains with care.”