- Stonehenge, a 5,000-year-old monument in the UK, was built using two types of stone.
- Archaeologists have traced one type of stone – the smaller bluestons – to a site in Wales. However, the origins of the massive Stonehenge boulders, called sarsens, remained a mystery.
- A new study shows that most of the 25 tons of sarsens originated in a forest area 15 miles (25 km) away.
- The finding provides more insight into how Stonehenge was built. One expert suggested that all 80 sarsens be transported at the same time.
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The history of Stonehenge’s origins has confused archaeologists for centuries.
A mysterious monument in the UK Salisbury Plain, built in two pre-built waves 5,000 and 4,500 years ago, are two different types of stone slabs concentrically arranged in a hemisphere.
Researchers traced one type of stone ̵1; the smaller bluestons – to a location in Wales. However, the origins of Stonehenge’s 30-foot (9-meter) sandstone boulders, called sarsens, remain unresolved to this day.
According to a study published in Science Advances on Wednesday, Stonehenge builders pulled most of that 50,000 pounds (22,700 kilograms) of sarsens from a forest area in Wiltshire.
The area, called West Woods, is more than 15 miles (25 kilometers) from the monument – “which is really crazy if you think about it,” David Nash, chief author of the study, told Business Insider.
He added: “Our results show that most of Stonehenge’s sarsens have common chemistry, so we say they come from the same field.”
These findings may have helped archaeologists figure out how the builders transported the giant stones to the south.
Stonehenge sarsens originated from a forest 15 miles away
Initially, there were 80 sarsenes in Stonehenge built into square arches, but only 52 remained.
According to an analysis of the elements in the rocks by the Nash team, 50 out of 52 sarsens have the same chemical composition.
Armed with that chemical signature, the team looked for other sarsens throughout the southern UK and compared those boulders to those in Stonehenge. They found their match in West Woods, about 15 miles north of the monument.
Prior to the discovery, archaeologists speculated whether the sarsens came from a nearby region called Marlborough Downs because “Stonehenge had large gray stones, and the sarsens of Marlborough Downs were large and gray,” Nash said.
West Woods is part of that region, but researchers never looked for that particular place of evidence, as most of the sarsens there were hidden under vegetation.
In addition, according to Nash, the distant origins of Stonehenge’s bluestons provided evidence that builders did not necessarily knock out rocks from the most comfortable areas.
“Given that builders were afraid to bring faded stones from Wales to Stonehenge, why should they worry about bringing sarsens from the nearest place?” said Nash. At least forty dozens of 2-5 tons of bluestons came from the Preseli hills of Wales, about 150 miles away.
“The people who built Stonehenge would not have worried about the distance,” Nash added.
The reason why the builders used the West Woods flair is still unclear, but the study’s authors say it likely has something to do with “the size and quality of the stones there.”
All sarsens could have been moved at the same time
The new finding still doesn’t confirm who Stonheng was actually used to – Nash said theories range from burial and cremation ground to an ancient treatment site. But knowing where the sarsen came from can at least help experts figure out how the builders of the monument built it and the way they took their building materials.
Nash said most likely Stonehenge builders used some sort of roller or pulled the sarsens on a slippery surface such as vegetation or cold.
“There’s no evidence they did it with animals, but we don’t know,” he said.
The new study also supports the idea that the builders, who transported them en masse, carved and raised all the sarsens to the standing places in the Stonehenge Rock Round, around 2,500 m. Pr. Kr.
“It seems to me that this confirms the idea that all the stones were moved at the same time, at the same time,” Nash said. “It’s an amazing idea: how many people will need to be involved in a huge boulder as part of one big project.”