The origin of the giant sarsen stones at Stonehenge has finally been discovered with the help of a missing piece of the site which was returned after 60 years.

30 07 2020

Last year archaeologists pinpointed the origin of many of the ancient monument’s massive stones. A new study identifies the source of the rest. A test of the metre-long core was matched with a geochemical study of the standing megaliths.

Stonehenge

The 23ft sarsens each weigh around 20 tonnes

Archaeologists pinpointed the source of the stones to an area 15 miles (25km) north of the site near Marlborough.

English Heritage’s Susan Greaney said the discovery was “a real thrill”.

The seven-metre tall sarsens, which weigh about 20 tonnes, form all fifteen stones of Stonehenge’s central horseshoe, the uprights and lintels of the outer circle, as well as outlying stones.

The monument’s smaller bluestones have been traced to the Preseli Hills in Wales, but the sarsens had been impossible to identify until now.

The return of the core, which was removed during archaeological excavations in 1958, enabled archaeologists to analyse its chemical composition.

No-one knew where it was until Robert Phillips, 89, who was involved in those works, decided to return part of it last year.

Researchers first carried out x-ray fluorescence testing of all the remaining sarsens at Stonehenge which revealed most shared a similar chemistry and came from the same area.

They then analysed sarsen outcrops from Norfolk to Devon and compared their chemical composition with the chemistry of a piece of the returned core.

English Heritage said the opportunity to do a destructive test on the core proved “decisive”, as it showed its composition matched the chemistry of sarsens at West Woods, just south of Marlborough.

Prof David Nash from Brighton University, who led the study, said: “It has been really exciting to harness 21st century science to understand the Neolithic past, and finally answer a question that archaeologists have been debating for centuries.

‘Substantial stones’

“Each outcrop was found to have a different geochemical signature, but it was the chance to test the returned core that enabled us to determine the source area for the Stonehenge sarsens.”

Ms Greaney said: “To be able to pinpoint the area that Stonehenge’s builders used to source their materials around 2,500 BC is a real thrill.

“While we had our suspicions that Stonehenge’s sarsens came from the Marlborough Downs, we didn’t know for sure, and with areas of sarsens across Wiltshire, the stones could have come from anywhere.

“They wanted the biggest, most substantial stones they could find and it made sense to get them from as nearby as possible.”

Ms Greaney added the evidence highlights “just how carefully considered and deliberate the building of this phase of Stonehenge was”.
SOURCE: BBC NEWS

STONEHENGE RELEVANT NEWS:

Stonehenge: Mystery of mighty stones solved by archaeologists – THE INDEPENDENT
Origin of Stonehenge’s huge standing stones discovered after part of monument found in US – ITV NEWS
Mystery of origin of Stonehenge megaliths solved – BBC NEWS
Mystery of where Stonehenge’s giant stones come from solved – SKY NEWS
Whence Came Stonehenge’s Stones? Now We Know – NYC TIMES
Visit Stonehenge and hear all the latest theories – STONEHENGE GUIDED TOURS
Origin of Stonehenge’s huge standing stones discovered after part of monument found in US – ITV NEWS

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Was Stonehenge built by seafarers? Prehistoric sailors may have been responsible for many of the megalithic monuments.

16 02 2019

Stonehenge is one of many megalithic monuments from prehistory dotted around Europe and scientists have now discovered the art form of giant rocks was a popular trend that started 6,500 years ago in France.

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  • The first monument was erected in northwest France in 4,500 BC, study finds 
  • Then the tradition, practice and popularity for similar monuments spread 
  • Monuments appeared at coastal regions on Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts
  • Sailors are thought to have taken the trend around Europe over 2,000 years as they used their budding sea routes  

The knowledge and expertise to create these monuments was then spread around Europe by sailors over the following millennia.

Similar monuments to the original appeared in coastal regions around the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts via sailors on large ships using emerging sea routes.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, theorizes that these megalith structures have been around for nearly 7,000 years and may have originated in northwestern France.

Relevant Stonehenge News links:
Was Stonehenge built by seafarers? Daily Mail
Stonehenge, other ancient rock structures may trace their origins to monuments like this.  Science Mag
Prehistoric sailors may be responsible for Stonehenge.  New York Post 
Stonehenge mystery solved? Fox News

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Was #Stonehenge a ‘Mecca on stilts’?

18 03 2015

Structure supported a wooden platform to get ‘closer to the heavens’, claims expert 

  • Historian Julian Spalding has provided a new theory on Stonehenge
  • He says the stones were pillars used to support a raised platform
  • This would have had people of importance upon it, with others below
  • A ramp or stairs would have led to the top of the platform
  • But the wood has long since rotted away, leaving only the stones behind 
Historian Julian Spalding has provided a new theory on Stonehenge. He says the stones were pillars used to support a raised platform during ceremonies. As shown in this illustration, steps or a ramp would have led to the top of the platform, where figures of importance would have stood, perhaps addressing a crowd below.  Copyright @Daily Mail

Historian Julian Spalding has provided a new theory on Stonehenge. He says the stones were pillars used to support a raised platform during ceremonies. As shown in this illustration, steps or a ramp would have led to the top of the platform, where figures of importance would have stood, perhaps addressing a crowd below. Copyright @Daily Mail

Whether it was a Druid temple, an astronomical calendar or a centre for healing, the mystery of Stonehenge has sparked endless debate over the centuries.

Now a dramatic new theory suggests that the prehistoric stone circle monument was in fact ‘an ancient Mecca on stilts’.

The megaliths would not have been used for ceremonies at ground level, but would instead have supported a circular wooden platform on which ceremonies were performed to the rotating heavens, according to new research.

Julian Spalding, former director of some of the UK’s leading museums, argues that the stones were foundations for a vast platform, long since lost – ‘a great altar’ raised up high towards the heavens and able to take the weight of hundreds of worshippers.

‘It’s a totally different theory which has never been put forward before,’ he said.

‘All the interpretations to date could be mistaken. We’ve been looking at Stonehenge the wrong way, from the earth, which is very much a 20th-century viewpoint. We haven’t been thinking about what they were thinking about.’

Part of his evidence lies in ancient civilisations worldwide. As far afield as China, Peru and Turkey, such sacred monuments were built high up, whether on manmade or natural sites, and with circular patterns possibly linked to celestial movements.

‘In early times, no spiritual ceremonies would have been performed on the ground,’ said Mr Spalding.

The Pharaoh of Egypt and the Emperor of China were always carried – as the Pope used to be… The feet of holy people were not allowed to touch the ground. We’ve been looking at Stonehenge from a modern, earth-bound perspective.

‘All the great raised altars of the past suggest that the people who built Stonehenge would never have performed celestial ceremonies on the lowly earth… That would have been unimaginably insulting to the immortal beings, for it would have brought them down from heaven to bite the dust and tread in the dung.’

However, he says the wood that would have been used for the platform has long since rotted away, leaving only the stone pillars that support it behind.

Mr Spalding’s museum directorships include Glasgow, which boasts world-class archaeological collections within a complex of institutions that exceed the British Museum in size.

Today, he published his theories in a new book, titled Realisation: From Seeing to Understanding – The Origins of Art, published by Wilmington Square Books.

It explores our ancestors’ understanding of the world, offering new explanations of iconic works of art and monuments.

Stonehenge, built in stages between 3000 and 2000 BC, is England’s most famous prehistoric monument, a Unesco World Heritage site on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire that draws more than one million annual visitors.

It began as a timber circle, later made permanent with massive blocks of stone, many somehow dragged from dolerite rock in the Welsh mountains.

Dolerite has a bluish tinge and is dappled with white spots that look like stars, according to Mr Spalding.

‘These megaliths, weighing between two and four tons each, were transported 250 miles [400km], an extraordinary achievement in those times, which indicates that building Stonehenge was a massive communal enterprise,’ he said.

He believes that ancient worshippers would have reached the giant altar by climbing curved wooden ramps or staircases, moving in the direction of the slowly circulating stars for ceremonies dedicated to, for example, a dead king’s soul or midsummer and solstice celebrations.

His theories have been shaped by visits to ancient sites like the stone circles of Göbekli Tepe in southern Turkey, reminiscent of Stonehenge but predating it by around 6,000 years.

Only a fraction of the site has been excavated, and the purpose of its T-shaped pillars is a mystery, Spalding said: ‘These must have supported some sort of raised platform.’

He also points to the Nazca Lines in Peru, vast drawings apparently etched into Earth’s surface more than 2,000 years ago on to a high natural plateau above the villages where they lived: ‘They went up to the sacred place. These lines were a processional way, which followed the movement and shape of the stars.

‘The great mystery of early man was that we all thought the world was flat. Everyone did until very recent times. All the major religious ceremonies, as the Haj still does in Mecca, always ends in a circular motion, going round and round, which imitates the stars.’

Professor Vincent Gaffney, principal investigator on the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project at Bradford University, responded with ‘a fair degree of scepticism.’

He said: ‘At Stonehenge, there are other structures which are clearly designed to be viewed from the ground, along astronomic alignments, and you can see the sky from pretty much anywhere.’

Sir Barry Cunliffe, a prehistorian and Emeritus Professor of European Archaeology, Oxford University, said: ‘He could be right, but I know of no evidence to support it… There are a large number of stone circles around the country which clearly didn’t have a platform on top. So why should Stonehenge?’

But Aubrey Burl, an authority on prehistoric stone circles, said: ‘There could be something in it. There is a possibility, of course. Anything new and worthwhile about Stonehenge is well worth looking into, but with care and consideration.’

Mr Spalding is fully expecting resistance from fellow academics. He draws parallels with the 1868 discovery of magnificent prehistoric ceiling paintings in the Altamira Cave in Spain, by a geologist and archaeologist.

‘He went in there and looked on the ground – because he assumed all the evidence for early man would be on the ground,’ he said.

‘It never occurred to him to look up. It was his young daughter who said, papa look on the ceiling.’

Experts at the time denounced those paintings as forgeries. It was not until the end of the 19th century that they were accepted as genuine.

Read the full article (source) in the Daily Mail

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