Stonehenge remains one of the most mysterious places on Earth, even after scientists last week announced remarkable findings of numerous other monuments under the ground around the puzzling but majestic collection of stones that rises above England’s Salisbury Plain.
While those discoveries were made using the most sophisticated 21st century technology available, now one of the most enduring mysteries of Stonehenge has been solved — completely by accident.
And the solution to this centuries-old Stonehenge mystery was solved with no technology more sophisticated than a garden hose.
For as long as scientists have been studying — and puzzling over — Stonehenge, they have never been able to figure out if the semicircular formation of massive stones was intended to be a semicircle or if Stonehenge was constructed — as long as 5,000 years ago — as a complete circle.
Now scientists have their answer, thanks to a hose that was too short to water the grass around the ancient monument.
The grass around Stonehenge is watered regularly, but during a dry spell last year, for some reason, the hose used to water the Stonehenge grass was just too short to reach all the way around the arc-shaped formation.
As a result, the grass in that area did not grow, revealing a series of depressions in the ground that researchers had never before been able to see when the grass was healthy.
The depressions fill in the missing pieces of the Stonehenge circle, leading researchers to conclude that more stones once stood there — and that Stonehenge was indeed a built as a full circle of stones.
“If these stone holes actually held upright stones, then we’ve got a complete circle,” said Susan Greaney, a historian with English Heritage. “It’s really significant, and it shows us just how much we still have to learn about Stonehenge.”
“I was standing on the public path looking at the grass near the stones and thinking that we needed to find a longer hosepipe to get the parched patches to green up,” said Stonehenge groundskeeper Tim Daw. “A sudden light-bulb moment in my head, and I remembered that the marks were where archaeologists had looked without success for signs that there had been stone holes, and that parch marks can signify them. I called my colleague over and he saw them and realized their possible significance as well. Not being archaeologists we called in the professionals to evaluate them.”
Of course, there are innumerable more Stonehenge mysteries to be solved — such as, what happened to those missing stones? And perhaps most important of all, who built Stonehenge in the first place — and why?