By Cathy Richey, the Cathy Factor
The Stonehenge monument on the Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire,
England, has been a source of controversy and mystery since
scientific study of its purpose and construction began in the
Scientists and historians have argued over why Stonehenge was
built and, even more puzzlingly, how. They are now closer to
cracking one aspect of the mystery after working out the exact spot
where some of the huge rocks came from.
The 5,000 year old circle of stones thought at times to have been
a temple of healing, a calendar, or even a royal cemetery have been
traced to an outcrop 150 miles away in north Pembrokeshire.
Dr Richard Bevins of the National Museum of Wales and Dr Robert
Ixer at Leicester University narrowed down the source of the rocks -
called rhyolites, to the 70m-long area called Craig Rhos-y-Felin
after testing thousands of samples and finding a match. He said the
breakthrough would help experts work out how they were moved to the
site in Wiltshire, which attracts more than a million tourists a
Archaeologists have long suspected that the 82 bluestones, each
weighing up to four tons, originated in the Preseli hills in Wales.
But this is the first time their origin has been pinpointed so
The next step is to look for evidence of quarrying at this site
in search of more details as to how the stones were rolled, sledged
and rafted down the River Avon to their final destination by early
Britons. It could debunk another theory that the rocks were not
transported by humans at all but by the movement of glaciers during
the Ice Age several millennia earlier. The team used special
geological equipment to compare the bluestones with several outcrops
in the area over nine months. All but four could be matched to one
specific site near the village of Pont Saeson.
Dr Bevins said: “What this means is that the area is now small
enough for archaeologists to excavate to try and uncover evidence
for associated human activity, so providing another strand of the
story of how the stones from Pembrokeshire reached Stonehenge.” Dr
Ixer described the find, published in the journal Archaeology in
Wales, as “quite unexpected and exciting”. And Stonehenge expert
Professor Geoff Wainwright, former chief archaeologist at English
Heritage, said it was a “scientific triumph."
“It does not discredit any previous work, it gives archaeologists
an area to focus on,” he said. “It’s still something of a mystery
but we are now a step closer to getting the answers.”
Julian Richards, presenter of the BBC’s Meet the Ancestors, told the
Daily Mail, “This is very interesting and narrows the search down,
but the Holy Grail is to find a stone along the way, which could
have dropped off the sledge, which could show us how it was
A ditch and bank were created at Stonehenge around 3000BC, and it
was believed to be used as a burial ground. It is thought all the
stones were brought there around 2600BC and placed in two circles.
The final stage was around 200 years later when ancient Britons
mined sarcen stones from Marlborough 25 miles away, and are thought
to have brought them on sledges. They believed the stones had
supernatural or healing power and were prepared to go to extreme
lengths to harness it.
Unfortunately, the people who built Stonehenge didn't leave much
evidence of why they built this massive structure. So writers and
researchers through the ages have pondered the stones and come up
with their own stories about this prehistoric creation.
But the great attraction of Stonehenge is the mystery. We may
never know why 25 generations of people labored to create this
massive and awe-inspiring structure.