Researchers may have cracked the code of the Stonehenge, an ancient mystery that has baffled archaeologists for more than a hundred years.
Nobody really knows how the massive stones used to build the Neolithic monument were transported to Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, although theories abound.
In a new study published in the journal Antiquity, researchers trace the routes taken by ancient engineers to carry the massive megaliths. The researchers believe the stones were transported over a "stone highway" comprising a network of roads and rivers, instead of the prevailing theory that the stones were shipped by boat over the sea.
Upending The Current Theory
In the early 1920s, geologist Herbert Henry Thomas proposed that the smaller bluestones used to construct part of the Stonehenge were taken from quarries in the Mynydd Preseli, a range of rocky hills north of Pembrokeshire 140 miles away.
Building on this theory, experts later suggested that the stones were carried over the sea along the west coast of Wales until they reached what is now modern-day Bristol. This has been the prevailing theory for decades on the origin of the megaliths, that is until new technologies developed in the 21st century prompted experts to dig deeper.
Origin Of Bluestones
Archaeologists reexamining the theory proposed by Thomas found the work "sloppy". Bob Ixer of the University of Leicester and Richard Bevins of the Museum of Wales took on a mission of analyzing Thomas' samples collected at the Mynydd Preseli and found that they were collected 14 years before his study.
"The results of these new analyses, combined with a thorough checking of the archived samples consulted by Thomas, reveals that key locations long believed to be sources for the Stonehenge bluestones can be discounted in favor of newly identified locations at Craig Rhos-y-felin and Carn Goedog," the researchers wrote.
The findings are supported by earlier research done by experts investigating quarry sites at the said outcrops. Each stone weighs up 2 tonnes, leading archaeologists to believe that they were carried on wooden lattices by around 60 men.
Origins Of Sarsens And Altar Stone
The larger sarsens, a local type of sandstone, were transported from the Marlborough Downs 25 miles north of Stonehenge. Researchers believe each sarsen, which weighs up to 50 tonnes, were carried by at least 500 men using leather ropes and another 100 men to lay rollers in front of the stones.
The purplish-green Altar Stone at the center of the monument is a bigger mystery. Experts have long surmised that the Altar Stone comes from the outcrops of the Senni Beds, a sandstone formation 80 miles east of Mynydd Preseli.
The new theory proposes that the Altar Stone was carried to Monmouth with the help of animals and rollers. It was then transported to the lower portions of River Wye before broaching the River Severn near Gloucester and heading south to Wiltshire, or it may have taken a raft and crossed the Severn down to the mouth of the Avon.