It was a Friday in July 2018, the last day of a three-week archaeological dig on England’s Salisbury Plain, about 40 miles from the sacred stones of Stonehenge. Two of the volunteers on the dig noticed a strong signal from their metal detectors. And when they dug down, they found something that has astonished and delighted experts.
Salisbury Plain is in south-west England, mostly in the county of Wiltshire. Its chalk downlands cover some 300 square miles. It’s well known for its archaeological riches going back as far as the Stone Age. The landscape is punctuated by Stone Age and Bronze Age burial mounds known as barrows. And then of course, there’s the magnificent Stonehenge.
The plain is a favored spot for hikers and naturalists, but not all of it is open to the public. In fact, parts of it are actively dangerous to wanderers. That’s because a substantial area of Salisbury Plain, as much as half of it, is owned by the Ministry of Defense and used for military training – including live munitions exercises.