Stonehenge, one of the world’s oldest archaeological sites, is at the center of a heated controversy. On Thursday, transportation officials announced plans to build a tunnel underneath the popular tourist destination. Officials say it will increase traffic flow and cut down on noise pollution.
But historians don’t see it that way. They believe building a tunnel beneath the prehistoric monument is an act of vandalism. To them, Stonehenge is a sacred historical site, and they’re doing everything in their power to prevent it from being disturbed.
“Stonehenge did not exist in isolation. Stretching all around it are traces stamped, not just in the field, in the very subsoil of Salisbury Plain—the most archaeologically significant landscape anywhere in Europe. Lose it to the tunnel and you lose our beginnings,” said historian Tom Holland.
The plan, as it stands, is to reroute the A303 Highway to run underneath Stonehenge instead of alongside it. The tunnel itself would be about 3 kilometers long, or 1.8 miles. The project would cost an estimated £2 billion ($3.2 billion).
The problem is, even though the site dates back to 3100 BC, modern day discoveries are still being made. For example, in September 2015, researchers found evidence of what they believe to be the remnants of an ancient stone monument near the ruins. Historians are worried that undiscovered artifacts could be destroyed during the construction of the tunnel.
Andy Rhind-Tutt, Chairman of Amesbury Museum and Heritage Trust, related the tunnel to being a “self-destructing time bomb.” He urged members of the public to take action immediately.
The Stonehenge Alliance, an organization dedicated to protecting the site, has also spoken out against the project. On Thursday, the organization unleashed a social media campaign focused on raising awareness about the tunnel plans. So far, it’s working, seeing as #Stonehenge is currently trending on Twitter.
But even if the project were approved, construction isn’t set to begin until 2020. It’s going to be a long and tumultuous road if transportation officials really want to see this project through.