When it comes to mystical places on Earth, few can rival Stonehenge — the enigmatic stone monument sitting on the Salisbury Plain of southern England. And now comes a new theory that suggests the Neolithic builders who erected Stonehenge may have used ball bearings to move the giant stones into place.
Aligned in a circle and made up of 30 vertical standing stones — called megaliths — over 10 feet tall and weighing many tons, Stonehenge is believed to be somewhere between 3,000 and 5,000 years old.
An archaeological study, the Stonehenge Riverside Project, suggested in 2008 that the original purpose of Stonehenge was as a burial ground.
But other questions raised about the structure have led scientists to wonder whether there wasn’t a more mystical or scientific reason for its existence, including the speculation that Stonehenge was built as a sophisticated astronomical observatory. Researchers have thought that the Stonehenge stones were aligned in such a way to accurately observe the heavens.
One of the lingering questions about Stonehenge is how the ancient builders were able to transport the huge stone slabs a distance of 150 miles from their quarry to the Salisbury Plain.
Now, scientists believe they’ve solved that mystery, the Daily Mail reports. In ongoing experiments, researchers from the University of Exeter have used wooden ball bearings placed in long grooves dug from wood planks.
When they put heavy concrete slabs onto a platform — resting above the balls — they found it was easier to move them.
Archaeologist Andrew Young added his own weight to the experiment by sitting on top of the slabs.
“The true test was when a colleague used his index finger to move me forward. A mere push and the slabs and I shot forward,” Young said. “This proved the balls could move large heavy objects and could be a viable explanation of how giant stones were moved.”
The researchers believe that, using this ball bearing technique along with several oxen, Stonehenge’s builders could have transported the massive stones 10 miles a day, or approximately two weeks from the quarry to their final destination.
All that’s known for certain is that the builders of Stonehenge left no explanation of how they did it or why.
An upcoming National Geographic special, “Stonehenge Decoded,” will consider the various theories to explain the purpose of Stonehenge: prehistoric computer, celestial observatory, place of worship, burial ground and, even, extraterrestrial origin.
Merlin @ Stonehenge
The Stonehenge Stone Circle Website