Scientists Solve Mystery of Stonehenge and the People Buried Beneath the Stones
According to a new revolutionary scientific study, a group of scientists has found that ancient WELSHMEN ‘helped build Stonehenge’ by somehow transporting bluestones 140 miles from the Preseli Mountains before they died, buried beneath the iconic British monument.
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Stonehenge is one of the most amazing and mysterious ancient structures on the surface of the planet, located in the United Kingdom, the massive stones that makeup Stonehenge have remained shrouded in mystery for more than 5,000 years.
Why were the stones placed there? How were they placed? Where do the stones come from? And how were they transported to their original location?
Too many questions yet too few answers.
Sunset at Stonehenge. Image Credit: Shutterstock.
Despite more than a century of intense studies and excavations, we still know very little about the people buried at Stonehenge or how they and the famous Stonehenge stones got there.
Now, a new scientific collaboration including the University of Oxford, with the help of colleagues from UCL, Université Libre de Bruxelles and Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and the National Museum of Natural History in Paris, has published a new paper in “Scientific Reports,” suggesting that several people who were buried at the Wessex site moved, and possibly transported the bluestones used in the early stages of construction of the monument, from the Preseli Mountains of West Wales.
Scientists say that some of the people whose burned remains were found in the Neolithic monument of Stonehenge, located in the south of England, originally came from West Wales. This means that the people who were buried beneath the stones did not live near Stonehenge, according to a study of isotopes of ancient cremated bones deposited there.
Part of the reason for this is that many of the human remains were incinerated, so it was difficult to extract much useful information from them. We needed better technology.
Then came Christophe Snoeck.
The team headed by Christophe Snoeck used radiocarbon dating along with a new technique based on the analysis of the composition of strontium isotopes to determine the origin of the buried humans.
After having been granted with a special permit of Historic England and English Heritage, the team analyzed the skull fragments of 25 people to better understand the lives of those who were buried at the iconic monument.
These remains were originally excavated in a network of 56 wells in the 1920’s, and placed around the inner circumference and ditch of Stonehenge, known as “Aubrey Holes.”
The analysis of small fragments of human bone cremated around 3000 BC when it was used mainly as a cemetery, showed that at least 10 of the 25 people did not live near Stonehenge before their death.
Instead, as explained by experts, it has been suggested that the proportions of the highest strontium isotopes in the remains were consistent with residents in western Britain, a region that includes West Wales, which also happens to be a well-known source of the bluestones used in the construction of Stonehenge.
While the proportions of strontium isotopes alone can not distinguish between sites with similar values, this connection suggests that West Wales is the most likely origin of at least some of these people.
While Wales was known to have been the source of some of the stones, the study shows that people also moved between West Wales and Wessex in the late Neolithic and that some of their remains were buried at Stonehenge.
The results emphasize the importance of interregional connections that involve the movement of materials and people in the construction and use of Stonehenge, providing an unusual view of the large scale of contacts and exchanges in the Neolithic, for 5000 years.
HOW WAS STONEHENGE BUILT?
Stonehenge is one of the most prominent prehistoric monuments in Britain. The Stonehenge that can be seen today is the final stage that was completed about 3,500 years ago.
According to the monument’s website, Stonehenge was built in four stages:
First stage: The first version of Stonehenge was a large earthwork or Henge, comprising a ditch, bank, and the Aubrey holes, all probably built around 3100 BC.
The Aubrey holes are round pits in the chalk, about one meter (3.3 feet) wide and deep, with steep sides and flat bottoms.
They form a circle about 86.6 meters (284 feet) in diameter.
Excavations revealed cremated human bones in some of the chalk fillings, but the holes themselves were likely not made to be used as graves, but as part of a religious ceremony.
After this first stage, Stonehenge was abandoned and left untouched for more than 1,000 years.
Second stage: The second and most dramatic stage of Stonehenge started around 2150 years BC when about 82 bluestones from the Preseli mountains in south-west Wales were transported to the site. It’s thought that the stones, some of which weigh four tons each, were dragged on rollers and sledges to the waters at Milford Haven, where they were loaded onto rafts.
They were carried on the water along the south coast of Wales and up the rivers Avon and Frome, before being dragged overland again near Warminster and Wiltshire.
The final stage of the journey was mainly by water, down the river Wylye to Salisbury, then the Salisbury Avon to West Amesbury.
The journey spanned nearly 240 miles, and once at the site, the stones were set up in the center to form an incomplete double circle.
During the same period, the original entrance was widened and a pair of Heel Stones were erected. The nearer part of the Avenue, connecting Stonehenge with the River Avon, was built aligned with the midsummer sunrise.
Third stage: The third stage of Stonehenge, which took place about 2000 years BC, saw the arrival of the sarsen stones (a type of sandstone), which were larger than the bluestones.
They were likely brought from the Marlborough Downs (40 kilometers, or 25 miles, north of Stonehenge).
The largest of the sarsen stones transported to Stonehenge weighs 50 tons, and transportation by water would not have been possible, so it’s suspected that they were transported using sledges and ropes.
Calculations have shown that it would have taken 500 men using leather ropes to pull one stone, with an extra 100 men needed to lay the rollers in front of the sledge.
These stones were arranged in an outer circle with a continuous run of lintels – horizontal supports.
Inside the circle, five trilithons – structures consisting of two upright stones and a third across the top as a lintel – were placed in a horseshoe arrangement, which can still be seen today.
Final stage: The fourth and final stage took place just after 1500 years BC when the smaller bluestones were rearranged in the horseshoe and circle that can be seen today.
The original number of stones in the bluestone circle was probably around 60, but these have since been removed or broken up. Some remain as stumps below ground level.
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