Study provides first glimpse inside one of the giant sarsen stones at Stonehenge.

7 08 2021
  • Scientists analysed a sample from one of the standing stones taken in the 1950s
  • The sample is made up of sand-sized quartz grains cemented tightly together 

Stonehenge may have lasted so long because of the unique geochemical composition of the standing stones, a new study suggests.  

Geochemical analysis shows Stonehenge may have survived so long due to sand-sized quartz grains that are cemented tightly together by an interlocking mosaic of crystals

An international team of scientists analysed wafer-thin slices of a core sample from one of the great sandstone slabs, known as sarsens, under a microscope.

The 3.5-foot-long sample, called Philip’s Core, was extracted more than 60 years ago and only returned to Britain two years ago after being kept souvenir in the US for decades.

In 1958, Robert Phillips, a representative of the drilling company helping to restore Stonehenge, took the cylindrical core after it was drilled from one of Stonehenge’s pillars — Stone 58. Later, when he emigrated to the United States, Phillips took the core with him. Because of Stonehenge’s protected status, it’s no longer possible to extract samples from the stones. But with the core’s return in 2018, researchers had the opportunity to perform unprecedented geochemical analyses of a Stonehenge pillar, which they described in a new study.

The researchers used CT-scanning, X-rays, microscopic analyses and various geochemical techniques to study fragments and wafer-thin slices of the core sample – such testing being off-limits for megaliths at the site.

They found that Stonehenge’s towering standing stones, or sarsens, were made of rock containing sediments that formed when dinosaurs walked the Earth. Other grains in the rock date as far back as 1.6 billion years.

RELEVANT STONEHENGE NEWS:
How Stonehenge’s stones have lasted so long: 20-tonne blocks are made up of interlocking quartz crystals that have stopped the monument weathering over the last 5,000 years, analysis reveals – Daily Mail
Long-lost fragment of Stonehenge reveals rock grains dating to nearly 2 billion years ago – Live Science
Stonehenge breakthrough as lost fragment of monument uncovers two billion-year-old secret – Daily Express
Petrological and geochemical characterisation of the sarsen stones at Stonehenge – Plos One
Researchers analyze rock grains from Stonehenge – Reuters
Specialist tour operator offering guided tours of the inner circle of Stonehenge – Stonehenge Guided Tours
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. – Stonehenge News Blog

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