Everything Changes at Stonehenge as Pivotal Theory is “Totally Destroyed”
Scientists in England have determined Stonehenge's huge blocks were transported over land, rejecting the theory that Neolithic builders “floated” the huge slabs from Wales to the construction site at Salisbury Plain.
Built around 3,000–2,000 BC, this famous Neolithic monument was created using a mixture of local and distant-sourced stones. For example the Altar Stone has for a long time been associated with a quarry in Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, which led to ideas that the massive stones had been rafted over sea and up the Bristol Channel. However, a new paper published in the Journal of Archaeological Science presents new evidence that the Altar Stone “does not match” the Milford Haven rocks and they have outright debunked the “raft theory,” suggesting the stones “travelled a route similar to the A40.”
A study of the Altar Stone at Stonehenge has changed the theory of how the huge stones arrived at the site. (English Heritage)
The Historic Stonehenge Origins Debate
In the new study archaeologist Rob Ixer of the University College London says England’s famous Neolithic stone circle has long been thought of as containing local stones and blocks cut from mountains in Wales' Preseli Hills. Now it is known for sure that Stonehenge's bluestone blocks arrived “over land.” What this means is that the team of archaeologists have effectively debunked a long-standing theory that Stonehenge's bluestone blocks had been transported to Salisbury Plain on rafts from Wales.
The scientist explains that the green-grey Sarsens were sourced locally from Marlborough Downs about 20 miles (32.19 km) from Stonehenge and that the bluestones are also “indigenous rocks” known as dolerite and rhyolite. The first archaeological analysis of the purplish-green 2-meter (6.5 feet) wide, mica-rich Altar Stone, thought to weight around six tons, was undertaken by the British geologist and archaeologist Herbert Henry Thomas in 1923. According to a report in The Times, he “linked most of the stones with rocks found some 150 miles away in the Preseli Hills of north Pembrokeshire, Wales.”
Mapping Megalithic Transport Routes
Dr. Thomas suggested that the Altar Stone matched stones at the Senni Formation between Kidwelly and Abergavenny in South Wales and samples from the Cosheston Subgroup on the shores of Milford Haven, in Pembrokeshire. According to the new paper it was this idea that the Altar Stone had come from Milford Haven that sparked many theories regarding how the bluestones had been transported to the building site at Stonehenge.
The prevailing idea was that the Altar Stone had been picked up en-route and shipped on a raft up the Bristol Channel before being transported overland to Salisbury Plain. Challenging the proposed source in Milford Haven, Rob Ixer re-examined both the Altar Stone and the sandstones of the Cosheston Subgroup with advanced X-ray spectroscopy techniques and he determined the Altar Stone “could not have come from the sandstones exposed at Milford Haven, because its mineralogy and zircon age profile are very different,” according to the scientist.
False color particle maps showing the minerals making up the Altar Stone (top) and a sample of sandstone from Milton Haven (bottom) are different. (Bevins et al. 2020)
The Monolithic Domino Effect
The knock on effect of archaeologists now knowing that the Altar Stone did not come from Milford Haven is that there now exists not only no scientific evidence supporting the idea that the bluestones had been transported from the Preseli Hills by sea, but it takes away all subjective evidence too, in effect, “totally destroying” the raft theory, or “blowing it out of the water,” said Dr. Ixer in a Daily Mail article.
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This new research paper, in conclusion, leads to one big unanswered question: where did the Altar Stone come from? The researchers have positively excluded areas in West Wales as they failed to find any suitable geological sources. But in the early 19th century Dr. Thomas suggested perhaps the so-called Senni Formation of the Abergavenny area, near the English border was “closer to the mark.”
If the popular theory is gone, where did the Stonehenge Altar Stone come from? (Pam Brophy/CC BY SA 2.0)
The eastern section of the Senni Formation follows the modern A40 road and the archaeologist thinks it quite likely that this was a significant trade route in prehistory. The Altar Stone was maybe taken to Stonehenge from the Preseli around 3000 BC and transported past Abergavenny, where the Altar Stone was collected, before crossing the Severn River near Gloucester and then heading south-east to Salisbury Plain.
Top image: There is a new theory about how the huge stones got to Stonehenge. Source: Lisa /Adobe Stock
By Ashley Cowie