For thousands of years, Stonehenge has stood on the downlands of what is now southern England. With its origins and purpose shrouded in mystery, the massive prehistoric monument has long captivated the imagination of mankind.
In his 12th century book “The History of the Kings of Britain,” Welsh cleric Geoffrey of Monmouth wrote that Merlin, the wizard prominently featured in the legend of King Arthur, was enlisted to lead an army to Ireland and transport a ring of gigantic mystical stones, called the Giants’ Dance, to what is commonly believed to be Salisbury Plain, a chalk plateau in the English county of Wiltshire where Stonehenge is located.
Although Geoffrey’s book is a work of pseudo-history, a new discovery raises the possibility that there’s a grain of truth in the 900-year-old tale of Stonehenge’s origins.
A team of archaeologists, led by Mike Parker Pearson of University College London, has unearthed Britain’s third-largest stone circle in the Preseli Hills of western Wales that they believe was dismantled, moved 175 miles to England’s Salisbury Plain and rebuilt as Stonehenge, according to research to be published Friday in Antiquity, a peer-reviewed journal of archaeology.
“It’s amazing that it’s only in the last year that we’ve really come up with answers for the origins of Stonehenge’s stones,” Parker Pearson told ABC News. “The sarsens coming from 15 miles to the north of Stonehenge and the bluestones — or at least some of them — deriving from a former stone circle in the Preseli Hills.”
Stonehenge is made up of two main types of rock. The sarsens, sandstone slabs weighing 25 tons on average, form the iconic central horseshoe, the uprights and lintels of the outer circle, as well as the outlying Station Stones, Heel Stone and Slaughter Stone. A variety of 2- to 5-ton igneous rocks known as bluestones, due to their bluish tinge when wet or freshly broken, form the smaller inner horseshoe.
Scholars have known for decades that most of Stonehenge’s bluestones were carried, dragged or rolled to Salisbury Plain from the Preseli Hills. In 2019, Parker Pearson and his team provided evidence of the exact locations of two of the bluestone quarries. And last year, another team of researchers led by David Nash of the University of Brighton revealed that most of Stonehenge’s sarsens hail from a woodland area in Wiltshire, some 15 miles from where they stand on Salisbury Plain.
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SOURCE: ABC News, Morgan Winsor