Store Banner Desktop

Store Banner Mobile


New Evidence Challenges Human Transport Theory in Stonehenge Bluestones

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

The enigma of how Stonehenge's massive bluestones were transported from Wales has baffled archaeologists for generations. A new revolutionary investigation suggests that glacial ice, rather than human effort, may have carried these stones. A recently discovered boulder shows evidence of glacial transit, raising questions regarding the long-held belief that Neolithic builders carried the stones directly from the Preseli Hills. Based on the examination of the Newall Boulder, this discovery has the potential to shake up centuries-old assumptions in archaeology and change our perception of how Stonehenge was built.  

New Evidence from the 'Lost' Newall Boulder  

Dr. Brian John, a retired geology lecturer from Durham University, has brought forward compelling evidence that could reshape our understanding of Stonehenge's construction. The Newall Boulder, a piece of bluestone discovered during an excavation in 1924 and left undiscovered for many years, may hold the secret. Dr. John reexamined the boulder and found clear evidence of glacier transport. "This boulder has had a fascinating history, but it is highly probable that it was carried into the Stonehenge area by glacier ice," Dr. John noted as reported by the Cambrian News. The boulder, stored in Salisbury Museum, showed facets and striations consistent with glacial movement.  

The proposed original shape of the boulder, along with its natural facets before human damage

The proposed original shape of the boulder, along with its natural facets before human damage (Salisbury Museum/Brian Stephen John 

This discovery challenges the prevailing theory that humans transported the stones from the Preseli Hills of southwest Wales to Salisbury Plain. The long-held belief, popularized by geologist Herbert Henry Thomas in 1923, suggested that Neolithic builders quarried the stones and moved them overland. Dr. John's analysis indicates a different story though, one where natural forces played a significant role.  

Potential signs of glacial erosion on the rugged and weathered surface of the boulder

Potential signs of glacial erosion on the rugged and weathered surface of the boulder (Salisbury Museum/Brian Stephen John) 

His findings have sparked renewed interest in the debate over Stonehenge's construction. The Newall Boulder’s weathered surface suggests it was exposed to the elements for hundreds of thousands of years, supporting the glacial transport theory. This contrasts sharply with the idea that the stones were quarried and transported relatively recently in geological terms. "There is too much fantasy and too little evidence in the traditional narrative," said Dr. John, emphasizing the need for a reevaluation of existing theories.  

Six of the Stonehenge bluestones

Six of the Stonehenge bluestones, part of the bluestone circle in the northeast quadrant of the monument, are mostly weathered erratic boulders and slabs, rather than elegant pillars (Brian Stephen John/CC BY-SA 4.0) 

Implications of Glacial Transport Theory  

Should the bluestones have been carried by glacial ice, the story of how humans started to build the iconic monument would have to be reconsidered. This new perspective challenges the extensive excavations and studies led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson and his team from University College London.   

They have long supported the theory that the bluestones were quarried from specific sites in the Preseli Hills and transported overland by humans. These researchers have identified quarrying sites such as Craig Rhos-y-felin and Carn Goedog and have proposed that the stones were first used in a giant stone circle at Waun Mawn before being transported to Stonehenge.  

According to Dr John, the diversity of bluestone types in Southwest Wales

According to Dr John, the diversity of bluestone types in Southwest Wales aligns with the way glaciers collect stones from multiple locations. (Brian Stephen John/CC BY-SA 4.0) 

Dr. John dismisses this hypothesis, arguing that there is "too much fantasy and too little evidence" to support it. He claims that the supposed engineering features at the quarry sites are entirely natural in origin and that the narrative of human transport is not backed by solid evidence. "The conclusion must be that Waun Mawn had nothing at all to do with Stonehenge," Dr. John stated, as reported by the Cambrian News. He further argues that the variety of bluestone types at Stonehenge matches what would be expected from glacial transport, which picks up stones from different locations.  

Some boulders in the Stonehenge Bluestone Circle

Some boulders in the Stonehenge Bluestone Circle exhibit rounded edges and various textures, indicative of potential ice transport. (Simon Banton and the Stones of Stonehenge/Brian Stephen John) 

Ultimately, the study emphasizes how critical it is to reevaluate archaeological narratives in light of new evidence. Dr. John claims that the heavily worn surfaces of the bluestones testify to a considerably longer exposure to the elements than previously thought, which supports the glacier transit theory. This perspective not only challenges the status quo according to him, but also offers fresh insight into the construction and history of Stonehenge.  

One thing is for sure, though; the new data makes it clear that more research and analysis are needed to determine Stonehenge's actual history. To finally solve the mystery and learn the real story of this remarkable monument, any further theories must be supported by solid evidence.  

Top image: A recent analysis of a Stonehenge Bluestone proposes that the monument's large stones may not have been moved by humans. Source: garethwiscombe/CC BY 2.0  

Theodoros Karasavvas's picture


Theodoros Karasavvas, J.D.-M.A. has a cum laude degree in Law from the University of Athens, a Masters Degree in Legal History from the University of Pisa, and a First Certificate in English from Cambridge University. When called upon to do... Read More

Next article