History.com listed these interesting facts about Stonehenge:

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“Among the remaining riddles about Stonehenge is how its builders, who had only primitive tools, managed to haul all the massive stones to the site. The sarsen stones, which each weigh an average of 25 tons, are thought to have been brought to the site from Marlborough Downs, about 20 miles to the north. The bluestones, which weigh between 2 tons to 5 tons, were transported to Stonehenge from the Preseli Hills area in West Wales, a distance of more than 150 miles. Most archaeologists believe that humans moved the bluestones over water and land to Stonehenge, although it’s also been suggested these stones could’ve been pushed to the site by glaciers.”

Stonehenge once was put up for auction.“…the passage of the Ancient Monuments Consolidation and Amendment Act in 1913 protected Stonehenge from being intentionally demolished. In 1915, Stonehenge went up on the auction block, where local resident Cecil Chubb successfully bid on the site, on a whim, for £6,600. Three years later, Chubb donated Stonehenge to the national government. In recognition of this deed, he was knighted by Prime Minister Lloyd George.”

Theories abound about Stonehenge’s purpose.“Stonehenge’s builders left no known written records, so scholars (and non-scholars) have long speculated about why it was constructed. Those theories include ‘(Stonehenge) was erected as a memorial to hundreds of Britons who were slayed by the Saxons’ or that ‘Stonehenge was built as a Druid temple.’”

Summer solstice gatherings were banned at Stonehenge.“First held in 1974 during the summer solstice, the Stonehenge Free Festival started as a counter-culture gathering that grew significantly in size over time. After tens of thousands of people showed up for the 1984 festival, authorities banned the event for the following year over concerns about the bad behavior of some of the visitors.” Summer Solstice Tour

Darwin studied worms there.“Darwin’s research was included in what would be his final book, ‘The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms,’ published in 1881.”

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A great article by Professor of Archaeology, UCL – Mike Parker Pearson:

I led the team of researchers that discovered that Stonehenge was most likely to have been originally built in Pembrokeshire, Wales, before it was taken apart and transported some 180 miles to Wiltshire, England. It may sound like an impossible task without modern technology, but it wouldn’t have been the first time prehistoric Europeans managed to move a monument.

Archaeologists are increasingly discovering megaliths across the continent – albeit a small number so far – that were previously put up in earlier monuments.

Other ‘second-hand’ monuments

The best example of such a structure outside the UK is La Table des Marchand, a Neolithic tomb in Brittany, France, built around 4000BC. The enormous, 65-ton capstone on top of its chamber is a broken fragment of a menhir, a standing stone, brought from 10km away. The original menhir may be 300 years (or more) older than the tomb. Another fragment of this same menhir was incorporated into a tomb at Gavrinis, 5km away. This menhir, originally weighing over 100 tons, is actually one of the largest blocks of stone that we know of to have been moved and set up by Neolithic people.

La Table des Marchand. Myrabella/wikimedia, CC BY-SA

Another example of a standing stone reused in a megalithic monument is an anthropomorphic menhir – a standing stone carved in the form of a human figure – incorporated as the capstone of another tomb at Déhus on Guernsey. Another megalithic tomb, La Motte de la Jacquille in western France, is built of dressed stones that have been rearranged into a new tomb but it is not known if they came from a different location or were an earlier version of the tomb rebuilt on the same spot.

Archaeologists have known for many years that some of Stonehenge’s bluestones (the shorter stones in the monument) were reused. Two are lintels reused as standing stones, and two others have vertical grooves that show they were part of a wall of interlocking standing stones. Until now it was thought that these were evidence of reuse just within Stonehenge which was first built around 2900BC and rebuilt circa 2500BC (at this point, large local sandstones known as “sarsen” were erected). It was then rebuilt again in around 2400BC and 2200BC.

However, we identified the actual quarries in Pembrokeshire, Wales (around 3400BC and 3200BC) that the bluestones came from. This is a period before prehistoric people were building stone circles (normally dating from 3000BC onwards) so we also think it is very likely that the bluestones originally formed a rather different type of monument from a stone circle.

People in western Britain and Ireland at this time were building Neolithic stone tombs known as passage tombs – Newgrange in Ireland is the best known example. So it is just possible that there is a dismantled passage tomb somewhere near the bluestone quarries. That’s what we will be looking for in 2016.

Stonehenge – an unusual distance

An interesting outcome from a recent conference in Redondo, Portugal, on prehistoric megaliths and “second-hand monuments” is that – while some megalithic stones for monuments in Portugal and elsewhere were brought as far as 8km from their sources – the vast majority of Neolithic stone monuments throughout Western Europe were built less than 2km to 3km away from their stone quarries. So Stonehenge is a major exception to this rule, as its bluestones were dragged around 290km. This makes it unique for prehistoric Europe.

How the stones were moved from Wales to Stonehenge is something of a mystery but our excavations at one of the Welsh quarries reveals that the trackway leading from the outcrop was too narrow for rollers to have been used. Instead, we think that monoliths were loaded onto wooden sledges and dragged over logs and branches laid rail-like in front of the sledge.

Some archaeologists have speculated that Stonehenge’s bluestones must have been thought to have had special properties – as musical “gongs” or healing stones – for them to have been sought out from so far away.

But we think it is far more likely that the bluestones were derived from quarries in close proximity to each other – within 2km to 3km – and brought together to build a local monument in Pembrokeshire. Scientific analysis of strontium isotopes in the teeth of people buried in the Stonehenge area reveals that many of them have values consistent with growing up in western Britain. So the stones may have been brought by people migrating from Wales, bringing their ancestral monument as a symbol of their history and identity. Strontium isotope analysis is currently being carried out on the people actually buried at Stonehenge when the bluestones were erected, and we await the results to see if they show a similar picture.

It’s also possible that the bluestones were put up somewhere on Salisbury Plain before they arrived at Stonehenge. For example, one of the bluestones never quite made it to Stonehenge and was dug out in 1801 from the top layer of a Neolithic burial mound called Boles Barrow, near Warminster, also in Wiltshire.

Although this tomb was first built around 3700BC, it seems to have gone through modifications, of which adding a layer of large stones (mostly local sarsen stones and this one bluestone) happened at the end of its use. So we don’t know precisely when it got there but it may have been set up as a burial marker before the rest of the bluestones were erected at Stonehenge.

Rebuilding tombs and other megalithic structures as second-hand monuments is only now turning out to be recognised in various parts of western Europe as archaeologists start to look more closely at the detailed aspects of construction. Simple expediency of finding suitable stone does not explain sites such as Stonehenge and the Table des Marchand – they were most likely incorporating aspects of the past which had rich historical resonance for them.

Mike Parker Pearson

Professor of Archaeology, UCL

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New research suggests stones came from Carn Goedog in Pembrokeshire – almost a mile from site of excavations

One of the mysteries of Stonehenge is how some of its stones were brought from Pembrokeshire in Wales to Wiltshire. Photograph: I Capture Photography/Alamy

One of the mysteries of Stonehenge is how some of its stones were brought from Pembrokeshire in Wales to Wiltshire. Photograph: I Capture Photography/Alamy

For almost a century archaeologists have been braving the wind and rain on an exposed Welsh hillside in an attempt to solve one of the key mysteries of Stonehenge.

But new research about to be published suggests that over the decades they may have been chipping away at the wrong rocky outcrop on the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire.

The work in the hills is a crucial element in the understanding of Stonehenge because it is generally accepted that the bluestones that form part of the ancient Wiltshire monument came from this remote spot in south-west Wales. One of the many huge puzzles remains how the bluestone from Wales travelled 190 miles to the heart of south-west England.

Since the 1920s much of the work in Preseli has focused on a spot known as Carn Meini. Now researchers are claiming that in fact the Stonehenge bluestones actually came from Carn Goedog – almost a mile away.

Richard Bevins, keeper of geology at the National Museum of Wales and one of those involved in the study, suggested he was not going to be terribly popular with some fellow experts.

“I don’t expect to be getting Christmas cards from the archaeologists who have been excavating at the wrong place over all these years,” he said.

The celebrated geologist Herbert Henry Thomas linked the Stonehenge bluestones with Preseli in 1923 and pinpointed the tor on Carn Meini as the likely source. Over the years teams worked assiduously on the spot searching for evidence of a Stonehenge quarry.

Two years ago there was excitement when a burial chamber was found, leading to speculation that this could be the resting spot of an architect of Stonehenge.

Now, using geochemical techniques, Bevins and his colleagues have compared samples of rock and debris from Stonehenge with data from the Preseli site and concluded the bluestones in fact came from Carn Goedog.

Bevins, who has been studying the geology of Pembrokeshire for over 30 years, said: “I hope that our recent scientific findings will influence the continually debated question of how the bluestones were transported to Salisbury Plain.”

There are different theories about how the bluestone may have got to Wiltshire. Some believe it was laboriously transported by man but there is another theory that it could have been swept east by glaciers.

Rob Ixer, of University College London, who also took part in the new research, said: “Almost everything we believed 10 years ago about the bluestones has been shown to be partially or completely incorrect. We are still in the stages of redress and shall continue to research the bluestones for answers.”

Bluestones are believed to have arrived at Stonehenge about 4,500 years ago. Some experts believe the bluestones – rather than the much larger sarsen stones that give Stonehenge its familiar shape – were the real draw because they were believed to have healing powers.

The paper setting out the discovery is to be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

: theguardian.com http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2013/nov/20/archaeologists-stonehenge-origins-wrong-place

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