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One of the world’s greatest mysteries is where the ancient people who built Stonehenge actually got those massive stones. Now, scientists have discovered a possible clue to answering this age-old question.
According to CNN, archeologists announced that they have potentially located the origin of the famous sarsen stones, which make up the formation of Stonehenge. The stones are likely to have originated in the West Woods near Marlborough, about 15 miles from the structure itself.
There have been lots of theories about the stones over the centuries, both touching on where they came from as well as how they were transported to their final location in Wiltshire, England, CNN reported There are actually two types of stones used to make up the Neolithic circle, and the recent discovery applies to only one of the types (sarsen, or megaliths). The other type, bluestones, are smaller than the sarsen stones and are thought to have originated in the Preseli Hills in south west Wales, according to CNN.
The larger sarsen stones weigh about 20 tons, measure up to 7 meters (about 23 feet), and make up a large portion of the structure, according to CNN. Although they potentially came from an area that’s a much shorter distance than Wales, 15 miles is not a quick jaunt either.
According to a statement from English Heritage, scientists have suspected that the stones came from near Marlborough, but it was nearly impossible to verify until recently. The core of one of the stones, which contained vital information about where the stone came from, was removed during a renovation during the 1950s, and it was only returned back in 2019, CNN reported.
“When Robert (the employee) decided to return the core last year, experts started piecing together a puzzle,” English Heritage wrote in a tweet. The scientists compared the core to other sarsen stones throughout England and finally came to a conclusion. “The results showed a best match with one particular location, *finally* revealing where the giant sarsen stones probably come from.”
However, Marlborough simply was the best match across England for the stone that was tested. There are apparently other stones that could have originated in other areas, CNN reported.
“While this could be coincidental, one possibility is that their presence marks out the work of different builder communities who chose to source their materials from a different part of the landscape,” it says in the study published in Science Advances.
There is also the lingering question as to why the Neolithic people chose certain stones from certain areas (some of which were quite far away) to make Stonehenge. “We can now say, when sourcing the sarsens, the overriding objective was size — they wanted the biggest, most substantial stones they could find and it made sense to get them from as nearby as possible,” said historian Susan Greaney, one of the study's co-authors, in a statement, according to CNN. How the stones were transported is another mystery for another day.
While there are still many questions to be answered, the latest study could be a stepping stone in the right direction.
“To be able to pinpoint the area that Stonehenge's builders used to source their materials around 2500 BC is a real thrill," said Greaney in the statement. “Now we can start to understand the route they might have traveled and add another piece to the puzzle."