Stonehenge Boulder originated 15 miles from the ancient site

  • In Britain the 5,000-year-old monument Stonehenge was built using two types of stones.
  • Archaeologists discovered a stone type – small bluestone – at a site in Wales. But the origin of Stonehenge’s massive sandstone, known as sirens, remained a mystery.
  • A new study suggests that most of the 25-ton mustard came from a woodland field 15 miles (25 kilometers) away.
  • This discovery provides further insight into how Stonehenge was constructed. One expert suggested that all 80 saris were taken at the same time.
  • For more stories visit the Business Insider homepage.

The original story of Stonehenge has baffled archaeologists for centuries.

Corrected in two waves of playful construction from 5,000 and 4,500 years ago, the mysterious monument at Salisbury Plain, Britain, has two different types of stone slabs in concentric half-circles.

Researchers unearthed small bluestone, a stone type in Wales. But Stonehenge’s origins in the 30-foot (9 m) sandstone boulder, called Saracen, remain an unsolved hinge until now.

According to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of Science Advances, the builders at Stonehenge pulled most of these 50,000 pounds (22,700 kg) of sores from a woodland area in Wiltshire.

The study’s lead author, David Nash, told Business Insider that the area, named West Woods, is more than 15 miles (25 kilometers) from the monument.

“Our results show that most of Stonehenge sirens share a common chemistry, which is why we are saying that they come from the same region,” he said.

The findings can help archaeologists to find out how the builders transported huge stones to the south.

The Sarsons of Stonehenge came from the woodlands 15 miles away

Stonehenge originally housed 80 Sarsons in square-shaped pylons, but only 52 remain.

According to Nash’s team analysis of the elements present in the rocks, 50 of those 52 mustards shared the same chemical makeup.

Stone core

Researcher Jake Ciborowski has analyzed a Sarson stone at Stonehenge using a portable X-ray fluorescence spectrometer.

David Nash / University of Brighton

With that chemical signature, the team discovered other saris in southern Britain and compared those stones to the ones at Stonehenge. He found his match at West Woods, about 15 miles north of the monument.

Prior to this discovery, archaeologists speculated that sirens from a nearby area called Marsboro Downs “were large, brown marbles in the Stonehenge, and the sorcerers at Marlborough Downs were large and gray,” Nash said.

The West Woods are part of that area, but researchers had never searched for that particular location for clues because most of the mustard was hidden under vegetation.

Stone sarson

A large sarsen stone in the West Woods, the area where most of the Stonehenge was built, is likely to come.

Katy Whitaker / Historic England / University of Reading

In addition, Nash said, Stonehenge’s distant origins of bluestones offered evidence that builders did not necessarily collapse rocks from the most convenient areas.

“Given that the builders have bothered to bring Bluestone from Wales to Stonehenge, why would they bother bringing Sarsons to the nearest place?” Nash said. At least four dozen 2–5-ton bluestones came from about 150 miles from Presley Hills, Wales.

“People who build Stonehenge won’t be bothered about the distance,” Nash said.

The reason that the builders used mustard from West Woods is still unclear, but the study authors have suggested that “there is potential to do so with the size and quality of the stones present there.”

All sirens may have been transferred at the same time

The new discovery still does not confirm who Stonehenge was actually used for – Nash said, ranging from burying and cremation grounds to ancient burial sites. But knowing where the Saracens came from could at least help the experts to find out how the builders of the monument built it and they moved their building materials to transport it.

Stone core

David Nash analyzed the Saracen core extracted from Stonehenge.

Sam Frost / English Heritage

Nash said it is likely that the Stonehenge builders used some sort of roller or dragged the mustard onto a slippery surface like vegetation or frosty ground.

“There is no evidence that they used animals to do this, but we do not know,” he said.

The new study also supports the idea that the builders engraved and raised all the saris in their standing position in the rock circle of Stonehenge in approximately 2,500 BCE after the carving.


Stonehenge is seen against the Wiltshire landscape.

Andre Pattenden / English Heritage

“To me this confirms the idea that all the stones were moved at the same time,” Nash said. “It’s a surprising idea: how many people will need to pull heavy boulders as part of a larger project.”

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