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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 August, 2003, 06:11 GMT 07:11 UK
Ancient stone circle discovered
Standing stones at Callanish, where the new discovery was made
The find was made at Callanish, close to this set of standing stones
An ancient stone circle, buried for thousands of years, has been uncovered by archaeologists at a site in the Outer Hebrides.

Experts say the discovery is second in importance only to Stonehenge.

The find was made close to the four other existing stone circles at the famous standing stones of Callanish, on the Isle of Lewis.

The discovery of the 30m circle - which is at least 3,000 years old and predates Stonehenge - was made by a team of archaeologists from Manchester University.

Their construction is unusual because instead of being bedded in earth, they are situated on a rocky outcrop and were originally propped up by stones encircling their bases.

Because they were propped up when built, the stones have fallen over and some are broken.

Colin Richards, who led the team, said the discovery was exciting, because it appeared the circle was built on the site of the quarry from which the stones probably originated.

There are not many stone circles in this condition and I have never seen this type of construction used before
Colin Richards, Manchester University

Mr Richards, who is senior lecturer in the university's School of Art History and Archaeology, has been working on a project for the last two years on the construction of stone circles in the north west of the UK, including Orkney and Arran.

"There are not many stone circles in this condition and I have never seen this type of construction used before," he said.

"It was long thought that there may be a further stone circle on the site but, until now, it has lain undiscovered, buried in the peat.

"This is a very exciting find and is not only significant in archaeological terms but also important for the island which benefits from tourism."

The team has uncovered about half of the stones in the circle and plans to return next year to uncover the rest.

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