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Scientists Break 5,000-Year Mystery, Uncover Origin of Stonehenge

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Experts can now pinpoint the origin of many of the stones that make up Stonehenge as a first step to understanding why two specific sites in western Wales were targeted to supply the stones.

The ring of stones on Salisbury Plain is about 180 miles from the source of what are known as the “bluestones,” one of the two types of stone used in building the megalith.

“What’s really exciting about these discoveries is that they take us a step closer to unlocking Stonehenge’s greatest mystery – why its stones came from so far away,” said Mike Parker Pearson, an archaeology professor at the University College London and the leader of the group investigating the stones, in a press release.

Experts from Bournemouth University, University of Southampton, University of the Highlands and Islands and the National Museum of Wales also participated in the project.

“Every other Neolithic monument in Europe was built of megaliths brought from no more than 10 miles away,”  he said.

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“We’re now looking to find out just what was so special about the Preseli hills 5,000 years ago, and whether there were any important stone circles here, built before the bluestones were moved to Stonehenge,” he said.

The hills where 42 of the stones came from are located in Pembrokeshire, in the southwestern corner of Wales.

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A spot called Carn Goedog “was the dominant source of Stonehenge’s spotted dolerite, so-called because it has white spots in the igneous blue rock, said geologist Richard Bevins of the National Museum of Wales. “At least five of Stonehenge’s bluestones, and probably more, came from Carn Goedog.”

The site was home to bluestone outcrops that were made up of natural, vertical stone pillars. Ancient stone workers used wedges and hammers to break off the pieces they needed.

“They’re nearly vertical,” said Professor Parker Pearson, according to The Washington Post. “All you’ve got to do is get a lasso around each one and pull.”

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“The stone wedges are made of imported mudstone, much softer than the hard dolerite pillars. An engineering colleague has suggested that hammering in a hard wedge could have created stress fractures, causing the thin pillars to crack. Using a soft wedge means that, if anything were to break, it would be the wedge and not the pillar,” Pearson said.

Excavations showed that in the area, man-made platforms were built to hold the stones after they were freed.

“Bluestone pillars could be eased down onto this platform, which acted as a loading bay for lowering them onto wooden sledges before dragging them away,” said Professor Colin Richards of the University of the Highlands and Islands.

The quarrying was done about 3,000 B.C., experts estimate.

“Some people think that the bluestones were taken southward to Milford Haven and placed on rafts or slung between boats and then paddled up the Bristol Channel and along the Bristol Avon towards Salisbury Plain,” said Bournemouth University professor Kate Welham. “But these quarries are on the north side of the Preseli hills so the megaliths could have simply gone overland all the way to Salisbury Plain.”

The exact path of the stones from where they were quarried remains a subject of debate.

The group believes that bluestones formed the initial stone circle at Stonehenge and that the larger stone blacks that now dominate the spot were added about 500 years after the stones from Wales were set up.

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Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack Davis is a freelance writer who joined The Western Journal in July 2015 and chronicled the campaign that saw President Donald Trump elected. Since then, he has written extensively for The Western Journal on the Trump administration as well as foreign policy and military issues.
Jack can be reached at jackwritings1@gmail.com.
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