In Brief

Mystery of where Stonehenge stones came from finally solved

But how the builders moved the huge stone megaliths to the Salisbury site remains a mystery

Archaeologist have solved the millennia-old puzzle of the origins of the giant sarsen stones used to build Stonehenge, thanks to the return of a piece taken from the site more than 60 years ago - plus a hefty dose of luck.

Until now, The Independent reports, all scientists knew “with reasonable certainty” was that the stones “had been brought in around 2500BC by the great temple’s Neolithic builders from the Marlborough Downs or immediately adjacent areas” – an area covering more than 75 square miles to the north of the Wiltshire monument.

But geochemical tests have not only shown that the returned metre-long core is a match for the standing megaliths, but also enabled researchers to pinpoint the stones’ origins to just a two-square-mile area.

The experts have concluded that “50 of the 52 sarsen stones at Stonehenge were probably sourced from West Woods”, about 15 miles north on the edge of modern-day Marlborough, says The Guardian. 

Brighton University professor David Nash, who led the study, told the newspaper: “We weren’t really setting out to find the source of Stonehenge.

“We picked 20 areas and our goal was to try to eliminate them, to find ones that didn’t match. We didn’t think we’d get a direct match. It was a real ‘oh my goodness’ moment.”

The piece of rock used to solve the mystery was removed during an excavation in 1958, before being returned last year by the worker who took it, Robert Phillips, now 89, according to the BBC.

But the question still remains of how the giant stones, each of which weighs up to 40 tons, were transported to their resting site.

“To be able to pinpoint the area that Stonehenge’s builders used to source their materials around 2500BC is a real thrill,” said English Heritage senior properties historian Susan Greaney. “Now we can start to understand the route they might have travelled and add another piece to the puzzle.”

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