REVEALED: Stonehenge's Sarsen stones are actually from Wiltshire!

REVEALED: Stonehenge's Sarsen stones are actually from Wiltshire!

Published by Faye Tryhorn at 7:00pm 29th July 2020.

3 minute read

A major study, prompted by a missing piece of the monument being returned to English Heritage, has led to an amazing discovery about the origin of its 'building blocks'.

For centuries, there's been speculation about where the stones that make up the structure of Stonehenge had come from.

We already know that the 'bluestones' were transported from the Preseli Hills in Wales, but the location of the sarsen stones has always been a mystery.

Analysis of Stonehenge sarsen stones July 2020
Analysis being taken at the sarsen stones at Stonehenge to help solve the mystery of their origin

WHERE ARE THEY FROM? 

Tests were carried out on a stone 'core' drilled from Stone 58 back in the 1950s, which was given back to English Heritage last year.

Robert Phillips, who was involved in the repair work back then, returned the piece of rock, and it's now been analysed by scientists from University College London, and universities in Brighton, Bournemouth and Reading.

They've checked that 'fingerprint' of the stone against sarsen stones across the south of England and found there's an exact match with the stones found in the Marlborough Downs in Wiltshire.

Stonehenge Sarsen Stone at West Woods Marlborough Downs Wiltshire
The stones have been traced back to a site about 15 miles away from the Stonehenge circle

More specifically, it's been discovered that they came from an area called the West Woods.

English Heritage Senior Properties Historian Susan Greaney told Spire FM it's a significant development: 

WHAT ARE SARSEN STONES? 

They're the ones that form the uprights and lintels of the outer circle at Stonehenge.

The Heel Stone, Slaughter Stone and Station Stones at the monument are the same kind of rock too.

52 of the original 80 sarsen stones are still standing there.

Stonehenge core being returned to English Heritage Lewis Phililips Heather Sebire Robert Phillips
Robert Phillips (left) and son Lewis returning the stone core to Heather Sebire from English Heritage last year

Professor David Nash, University of Brighton, said: 

"It has been really exciting to harness 21st century science to understand the Neolithic past, and finally answer a question that archaeologists have been debating for centuries. We were able to investigate the chemistry of the sarsens at Stonehenge using x-ray fluorescence, a non-destructive technique. This showed that most of the stones shared a similar chemistry and likely came from a similar source. 

"We then applied mass spectroscopy to samples from sarsen outcrops across southern England and to tiny pieces of the Phillips' core from Stonehenge.  Each outcrop was found to have a different geochemical signature, but it was the chance to test the returned core that enabled us to determine the source area for the Stonehenge sarsens. We're incredibly grateful to the Phillips family for returning the core to us." 

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