The mysterious Neolithic peoples who built Stonehenge didn’t let anything go to waste. New evidence suggests that they pilfered some of its stones from an older, dismantled monument in Wales, then dragged the pieces to England.
And if archaeologists can find the original, they may figure out why Stonehenge was built in the first place.
The ancient site was made of two different kinds of stone. The first is called “sarsen,” which is a local sandstone, and serves as the monument’s large standing stones, Wales.com explained. People built the inner horseshoe with smaller ones, called “bluestones,” which came from the Preseli hills in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, located in Wales.
That the bluestones weren’t local, but lugged in from 500 miles away, isn’t news. Geologists have known the site contains two different kinds of rock — one from England, one from Wales — since the 1920s. What they didn’t know is which quarry they were cleaved from.
Thanks to a partnership between archaeologists and geologists, and an excavation at the quarries, they do now.
The two quarries in Wales that are of particular interest to researchers are called Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin, located to the north of the Preseli hills, the Guardian added. There, they found rocky outcrops that match the bluestones at Stonehenge in size and shape. They also found similar stones, left behind by those ancient builders, and a “loading bay.”
The ancient quarry had two different types of rock. In Carn Goedog, the builders sourced “spotted dolerite” bluestones, and from Craig Rhos-y-felin, they used “rhyolite” bluestones.
And researchers learned that popping these rocks off the quarry was pretty easy. The stones found there are both volcanic and igneous and formed into natural pillars at the outcrops researchers found. This let the Stonehenge builders remove the rock without a lot of work, said Dr. Josh Pollard.
“They only had to insert wooden wedges into the cracks between the pillars and then let the Welsh rain do the rest by swelling the wood to ease each pillar off the rock face.”
They then lowered the pillars onto platforms of “earth and stone,” (the so-called “loading bay”), then dragged them away on trackways.
But researchers found something else interesting when they started to investigate the quarries in Wales. They learned the builders of Stonehenge likely built another monument first, and used its dismantled pieces to construct the new project in England (which scientists recently learned may have been something of an epicenter for partying, as the Inquisitr previously reported).
According to the Independent, the mystery monument was likely built in Wales, stayed there for 500 years, at which point it was “dismantled and dragged off” to Wiltshire. Their proof? The holes cut into those outcrops in the Preseli Hills, the ones that match those at Stonehenge, were cut centuries before it was built.
The holes were dated to 3,400 to 3,200 B.C., but Stonehenge wasn’t built until 2,900 B.C., Professor Mike Parker Pearson explained.
“It could have taken those Neolithic stone-draggers nearly 500 years to get them to Stonehenge, but that’s pretty improbable in my view. It’s more likely that the stones were first used in a local monument, somewhere near the quarries, that was then dismantled and dragged off to Wiltshire … What we’re seeing (England) is a second-hand monument.”
The ancient mystery original scrapped for parts is probably located between the two quarries, said Professor Kate Welham, another researcher, and the team is looking for its location. Excavations will continue next year and she thinks a big find is on the horizon.
If they can find the Wales monument, archaeologists may be able to “to solve the mystery of why Stonehenge was built and why some of its stones were brought so far,” Parker Pearson said.
“Normally we don’t get to make that many fantastic discoveries in our lives. But this is one.”
[Photo by littleny/Shutterstock]