Despite the fact that Stonehenge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a source of enduring mystery, the British government has recently approved a plan to construct a highway tunnel directly underneath the prehistoric stone monument. What could go wrong?
Well, a lot. New aspects and areas of Stonehenge are still being discovered all the time, including an entirely unknown “ritual complex” that was found underground near the monuments just last year. If the tunnel is constructed, who knows what unknown archaeological treasures could be lost?
The plan to construct the tunnel was announced last year to much criticism. Dan Snow, president of the Council for British Archaeology, told The Guardian that the tunnel poses a grave threat to Britain’s most renowned archaeological site:
Of all our many treasures on these islands, none is more internationally revered than Stonehenge. We have recently started to realise that the standing stones are just a beginning, they sit at the heart of the world’s most significant and best preserved stone age landscape. The government’s plans endanger this unique site.
The 1.8-mile (2.9km) tunnel tunnel is designed to relieve traffic congestion on the A303 highway which runs parallel to Stonehenge. Chris Grayling, a British MP and Secretary of State for Transport, naturally defended the tunnel with the tried-and-true populist “job creation” argument:
This major investment in the south-west will transform the A303 and benefit those locally by cutting congestion and improving journey times. It will also boost the economy, linking people with jobs, and businesses with customers – driving forward our agenda to build a country that works for everyone and not just the privileged few.
Because what’s more important: protecting the world’s priceless historical treasures, or stimulating the economy with a government-subsidized £2 billion construction project? It’s not like construction projects have ever destroyed priceless archaeological sites in the past, right?
Stonehenge Alliance, a nonprofit organization that advocates for protecting the ancient wonder, has launched a campaign in an attempt to divert the construction project, and has posted a petition on their site calling for a different route for the new tunnel which would avoid the monument.