An ice age site where human habitation can be traced back to around 8,000BC could be destroyed by the planned £1.6bn Stonehenge road tunnel, archaeologists have warned.
Blick Mead, around a mile from the Wiltshire stone circle, is thought to be the site of some of the earliest evidence of human habitation in Britain and according to one archaeologist Highways England has put the site in the wrong place on its tunnel plans.
The route of the planned tunnel has already been modified once by Highways England to avoid 'important archaeological sites and avoiding intrusion on the view of the setting sun from Stonehenge during the winter solstice'.
The tunnel route, which has already been modified once
David Jacques of the University of Buckingham said the plans produced by Highways England last month, which are due for consultation on 8 February, put Blick Mead in the wrong place and the actual location is beneath the proposed footings of an eight metre-high flyover that is part of the construction.
Professor Jacques has been leading the excavations at Blick Mead in advance of the Stonehenge works, due to begin in 2021, described the site as a ‘national archive of British history’.
He told The Times: ‘This site should have been assessed last year and the fact that it wasn’t either suggests an extreme level of negligence or a deliberate attempt to blindside.
‘Chris Grayling [the transport secretary] green-lighted the tunnel in September last year and I raised concerns at the time to say Blick Mead hadn’t been assessed at all.
‘At a meeting with the landowner a week ago . . . they distributed a map which shows they’ve even got Blick Mead in the wrong place. This is a scandal and we are sleep-walking into a situation where this unique national archive is going to be destroyed.’
David Bullock of Highways England told the BBC: 'The document in question is a land ownership boundary plan. The plan shows indicative general features and was never intended as a geographical map.'
Blick Mead is a set of springs and pools where people are believed to have settled after the last ice age.
During a recent excavation in October archaeologists found hoof prints of giant cattle known as aurochs that were left 6,000 years ago - when the last hunter-gatherers would have lived alongside the first farmers.