(ORDO NEWS) — Stonehenge, a Neolithic wonder in southern England, has annoyed historians and archaeologists for centuries with its many mysteries: how was it built? What purpose did the complex serve? Where did these tall boulders come from?
The latter question is finally being answered after a study published Wednesday showed that most of the giant rocks – known as sarsens – have a common origin in an area 25 kilometers from West Woods that was rife with prehistoric activity.
This discovery supports the theory that the megaliths were brought to Stonehenge at about the same time: around 2500 BC, the second phase of the monument’s construction, which in turn could be an indication that its builders were from highly organized society.
A new article appeared in the journal Science Advances .
Lead author David Nash, professor of geography at the University of Brighton, said that he and his team were able to develop a new methodology for analyzing sarsens, which are up to nine meters high and weigh up to 30 tons.
They first used X-rays to analyze the chemical composition of rocks, which are 99 percent silica but contain traces of several other elements.
“This showed us that most stones have a common chemistry, which allowed us to determine that we are looking for one main source here,” Nash said.
The scientists then examined two core samples from one of the stones that were recovered during restoration work in 1958.
They performed a more sophisticated analysis of these samples using a mass spectrometry device that detects a wider range of elements with higher accuracy.
The resulting signature was compared to 20 possible sedimentary baselines, with West Woods, Wiltshire being the closest.
How the ancient British were able to transport boulders weighing up to 30 tons over a distance of 25 kilometers remains unknown – although the prevailing idea is that they were moved along wooden beams.
Nash said the research team’s technique could help answer further archaeological questions, such as the route used to transport the boulders – which could be refined if sarsen chips are found along the proposed routes.
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