Stonehenge’s Missing Piece Reappears — In Florida

Stonehenge monument is seen on December 11, 2013.
Matt Cardy / Getty Images

A missing part of one of the United Kingdom’s most famous landmarks has reappeared after 60 years.

For over six decades, Stonehenge has been missing a 3-foot-long core from inside of a prehistoric stone, one which had been removed during archaeological work in 1958. And now, an English man living in Florida has come forward to solve the mystery, per BBC News.

Robert Phillips, 89, was involved in the excavations back then, and he kept the piece for all of these years. It was first kept in a plastic tube at his office in Basingstoke, U.K., and he later took it across the pond when he went to retire in the southern U.S. state, where he placed it on his wall at home. But on the eve of his 90th birthday, Phillips decided to return the piece.

Back in the 1950s, he had been working with diamond-cutting company Van Moppes, who were hired to help reinforce the famous giant stones. The firm drilled three holes into one of the stones, where they then inserted metal rods to help stabilize it. During the process, three 3-foot-long cores of stone were extracted — one of which had been kept by the retiree until now.

The work at the time consisted of archaeologists raising a fallen trilithon — the well-known formation in which two large stones stand upright while a third one is placed horizontally across the top. During this process, workers discovered cracks in one of the vertical stones. In order to reinforce it, they drilled cores through the stone so they could insert the metal rods. They then masked the holes with small plugs cut from sarsen fragments that were found during the excavations, per the BBC.

And now, English Heritage, which looks after Stonehenge, is sending out an appeal to try and find out where the two other missing cores are. They hope that, after announcing that Phillips returned his piece, other people who may hold information about the whereabouts of the remaining parts may come forward.

“The last thing we expected was to get a call from someone in America saying they had part of Stonehenge,” Heather Sebire of English Heritage said.

Historic England added that Phillips’ sample looks “incongruously pristine” compared to the monument’s “weathered” stones. Researchers now hope to analyze the chemical composition of the recovered core, trying to pinpoint exactly where the ancient sarsen stones came from.

“Studying the Stonehenge core’s DNA could help tell us more about where those enormous Sarsen stones originated,” Sebire added.