15 Incredibly Ancient British Monuments You Probably Haven’t Heard Of

By goneviral

The discovery of a “new Stonehenge” is a reminder that Britain is full of impossibly old things.

Wherever you are in Britain, you’re not more than a couple of hours from something thousands of years old. Here are 15 of them, ranked from “newest” (everything’s relative) to oldest.

. Caerleon amphitheatre, south Wales, 74AD:

1. Caerleon amphitheatre, south Wales, 74AD:

“Caerleon – johnelamper – X”. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

The best-preserved Roman amphitheatre in Britain. It would have seated 6,000 spectators – an entire Roman legion.

2. Prysg Field Barracks, south Wales, 74AD:

2. Prysg Field Barracks, south Wales, 74AD:

“Caerleon-Roman Prysg Field Barracks” by Pwimageglow (talk) – Own work (Original text: I (Pwimageglow (talk)) created this work entirely by myself.). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

Just next door to the amphitheatre at Caerleon is the only remaining Roman legionary barracks in the world.

3. Broch of Mousa, Shetland, 100BC:

3. Broch of Mousa, Shetland, 100BC:

“Mousa broch” by Langus (talk) – en.wikipedia.org. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons / Viacommons.wikimedia.org

A “broch” is an Iron Age Scottish tower, and the broch on Mousa, one of the Shetland islands, is the largest and most spectacular. It’s 13 metres tall, three times the height of a double-decker bus, and impressively intact after more than two millennia.

4. British Camp hill fort, Malvern Hills, 200BC:

4. British Camp hill fort, Malvern Hills, 200BC:

“British camp central mound 2005 (cropped)” by British_camp_central_mound_2005.jpg: Original uploader was Spoonfrog at en.wikipediaderivative work: Nev1 (talk) / Via commons.wikimedia.org

An extraordinary Iron Age fort, once home to hundreds of people, but which fell into disuse – perhaps destroyed by the invaders – around the Roman conquest of Britain.

5. Wittenham Clumps hill fort, Oxfordshire, 1000BC

5. Wittenham Clumps hill fort, Oxfordshire, 1000BC

“Round Hill, Wittenham Clumps” by Jonathan Bowen – Original digital photograph. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons / Major George Allen / BuzzFeed / Via commons.wikimedia.org

The twin hills of Wittenham Clumps – also known, oddly, as Mother Dunch’s Buttocks – were first occupied a thousand years before the birth of Christ. They were abandoned 400 years later, until the Roman invasion. The inset is an aerial shot by Major George Allen, from 1939.

6. Silbury Hill, Wiltshire, 2400BC:

6. Silbury Hill, Wiltshire, 2400BC:

“SilburyHill gobeirne” by Photograph by Greg O’Beirne – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons / Viacommons.wikimedia.org

The largest man-made mound in Europe, built around the same time as the Pyramids – and of similar size to some of them. There is no body buried in it, as far as archaeologists have been able to tell, and no one knows what it was built for.

7. Ring of Brodgar, Orkneys, 2500BC:

7. Ring of Brodgar, Orkneys, 2500BC:

“Ring of Brodgar 3”. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

A huge stone circle surrounded by 13 burial mounds on Mainland, the largest Orkney island.

8. Avebury stone circle, Wiltshire, 2850BC:

8. Avebury stone circle, Wiltshire, 2850BC:

“Inner south circle stones avebury henge” by JimChampion – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

The vast Avebury monument, about 30km from the better-known Stonehenge, is probably older, and in some ways is more impressive, than its more famous neighbour. It comprises a great earthwork ditch and wall, known as a henge, about 420 metres in diameter. Inside that is a stone circle 330 metres across; within that are two smaller circles. Some of the stones are more than five metres tall; the largest is estimated to weigh more than 100 tonnes. No one knows exactly why the circles were built.

9. Barnhouse Settlement, Orkneys, 3000BC:

9. Barnhouse Settlement, Orkneys, 3000BC:

“Barnhouse04” by taken by Martin McCarthy (Tumulus) – ancient-scotland.co.uk. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons / Via commons.wikimedia.org

Not as well preserved as their near-contemporaries at Skara Brae (below), these Neolithic huts may have been deliberately demolished when their inhabitants left. Two of the 15 buildings are much larger and more impressive than the others, and may have belonged to someone of great importance, or perhaps had some ritual significance.

10. Skara Brae, Orkney, 3180BC:

10. Skara Brae, Orkney, 3180BC:

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert / Getty

A huge storm battered the Orkneys in 1850, tearing great chunks of turf from a strip behind the beach on Mainland, and revealing a strange group of buildings. It wasn’t until the 1970s that it was confirmed that these buildings were more than 5,000 years old; they are the best-preserved group of Neolithic dwellings in western Europe.

11. Midhowe Chambered Cairn, Orkneys, 3500BC:

11. Midhowe Chambered Cairn, Orkneys, 3500BC:

“Midhow Chambered Cairn” by Lawrence Jones – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons / Viacommons.wikimedia.org

The most magnificent and best-preserved of 15 ancient tombs on the isle of Rousay in the Orkneys, Midhowe is more than 30 metres long. Nine complete corpses, three disembodied skulls, and the scattered remains of another 15 people were found in the cairn when it was unearthed in the 1930s.

12. West Kennet Long Barrow, Wiltshire, 3600BC:

12. West Kennet Long Barrow, Wiltshire, 3600BC:

RDImages/Epics / Getty

A huge 100m-long burial chamber for around 50 people, 1,000 years older than Stonehenge itself, and a vital archaeological site filled with the stuff of Neolithic British life.

13. Knap of Howar, Orkney, 3700BC:

13. Knap of Howar, Orkney, 3700BC:

“Knapofhowarinsun” by Me677 (talk) – Own work (Original text: self-made). Licensed under Public Domain via Commons. / Via commons.wikimedia.org

These two oblong stone buildings – a dwelling and a workspace – are perhaps the oldest still-standing houses in north-west Europe. It was occupied for around 500 years, until 3100BC.

14. Parc Cwm long cairn, Gower peninsula, 3850BC:

14. Parc Cwm long cairn, Gower peninsula, 3850BC:

“Parc le Breos, siambrau de”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikipedia / Via en.wikipedia.org

While the Parc Cwm cairn itself was built a mere 5,850 years ago – a burial site for at least 40 people – the ground it is built on appears to have been occupied for at least 5,000 years before that, since Britain was in the gip of the last Ice Age.

15. Maiden Castle hill fort, Dorset, 4000BC:

15. Maiden Castle hill fort, Dorset, 4000BC:

“Maiden castle dorset ramparts” by Jim Champion – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons / Major George Allen / BuzzFeed / Via en.wikipedia.org

A 6,000-year-old castle atop a hill, one of several Neolithic hill forts in Dorset andone of the most complex in Europe. By the time the Pyramid of Giza was built, Maiden Castle had been continuously occupied for almost 1,500 years. The inset shows an aerial photo of the fort, taken in 1939 by Major George Allen.

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