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Was Stonehenge a ‘Secondhand’ Monument?

Followers of the 1984 heavy metallic mockumentary “This Is Spinal Faucet” will bear in mind the scene through which the band commissions a stage set that’s a reproduction of Stonehenge, the Neolithic wreck in Wiltshire, England. Alas, a careless set of measurements ends in the musicians enjoying alongside a mannequin that stands an underwhelming 18 inches excessive relatively than 18 toes tall, a failure showcased on tour and, wincingly, accentuated by the dancing dwarves enlisted to make the prop seem bigger.

Thirty-seven years later it seems that the movie’s boulder gag accommodates a pebble of historic reality. On Friday a group of archaeologists reported within the journal Antiquity that they’d unearthed a stone circle in Pembrokeshire, Wales, a part of which they imagine was dismantled, hauled 175 miles to Salisbury Plain and reassembled as Stonehenge.

Mike Parker Pearson, a professor at College School London who led the examine, mentioned the stones may have been transported as half of a bigger motion of individuals to the realm. “Stonehenge is a secondhand monument,” he mentioned sardonically. The examine will likely be featured in a BBC documentary, “Stonehenge: The Misplaced Circle Revealed,” to be broadcast in Britain on Friday night.

Stonehenge was in-built phases from round three,000 to 1,500 B.C., beginning with a round ditch and financial institution along with 56 Aubrey holes, a hoop of chalk pits that surrounded a stone circle. An excavation in 2008 of 1 pit, led by Dr. Parker Pearson, revealed that it had held an upright of bluestone, so named due to its bluish-gray hue. The outlying ring of those igneous standing stones, every about 9 toes tall, was erected centuries earlier than bigger sandstone slabs, often known as sarsens, are believed to have originated from West Woods, 15 miles away on the southern fringe of the Marlborough Downs.

The geologist Herbert Thomas established in 1923 that the dolerite used to construct Stonehenge got here from an outcrop within the Preseli Hills of western Wales. In 2011, Dr. Parker Pearson’s group found two megalithic quarries in that area and started to look close by for ritual buildings that may have equipped the bluestones and blueprint. Though a number of round monuments had been surveyed and excavated, none was discovered to be Neolithic. In an interview, Dr. Parker Pearson mentioned his investigators had a “horrible time” looking for proof of a proto-Stonehenge.

The researchers had been about to surrender after they returned to a web site named Waun Mawn, the place a handful of toppled bluestones had been seemingly positioned in an arc. “The association was first recorded a century in the past,” Dr. Parker Pearson mentioned. “The idea by early archaeologists that it could be a circle was largely dismissed or just ignored.”

In 2011, his personal magnetometer and earth-resistance surveys had did not find any geophysical anomalies that may yield proof of a circle or monument. “We concluded that because the devices didn’t present us something, there couldn’t be something there,” Dr. Parker Pearson recalled. “A critical mistake.”

Through the summer time of 2017, the archaeologists dug trenches at each ends of the arc of serving stones and found two holes that every had as soon as held stones. When additional surveys utilizing earth resistance, ground-penetrating radar and electromagnetic induction got here to naught, the group made what was actually a last-ditch effort past the arc and uncovered 4 distinctive socket-shaped pits from which standing monoliths had been eliminated.

Extrapolating from the positions of the empty sockets and the fallen bluestones, the researchers sketched out a circle some 360 toes throughout — the identical diameter because the earthen ditch that initially enclosed Stonehenge. Dr. Parker Pearson, alight with boyish glee, famous that Waun Mawn and Stonehenge are the one two Neolithic monuments in Britain that conform to these specs. To his additional delight, the doorway to each circles had been aligned towards the midsummer solstice dawn.

The group was in a position to decide when the sediment contained in the socket holes was final uncovered to mild. The examine advised that Waun Mawn is the oldest-known stone circle in Britain, relationship from about three,400 B.C., and that the circle was dismantled shortly earlier than the development of Stonehenge in three,000 B.C.

Dr. Parker Pearson theorized that the six ghost holes and 4 surviving standing stones had been a part of a wider circle of 30 to 50 pillars, albeit unfold out extra haphazardly than the preliminary bluestone grouping at Stonehenge. These 4 stones are about the identical measurement and dimensions because the 43 bluestones that stay at Stonehenge, and are the very same rock kind as three of them. One of many Stonehenge bluestones has an uncommon cross-section whose pentagonal form matches one of many gaps at Waun Mawn.

“It may have been in that gap,” Dr. Parker Pearson mentioned. “The proof shouldn’t be categorical, however it’s actually fairly suggestive.”

Requested why the Waun Mawn stones had been moved to Salisbury, he deferred to his colleague, an archaeologist from Madagascar named Ramilisonina, who developed a brand new interpretation of the ritual panorama round Stonehenge: The megaliths had been used to symbolize the ancestors and roughly preserve their recollections alive for eternity.

“The dismantling of Waun Mawn and the rise of Stonehenge may have been half of a bigger migration to an axis mundi the place the earth and the heavens are in concord,” Dr. Parker Pearson mentioned. These historic individuals, he speculated, “might have taken their monuments with them as an indication of their ancestral id, which they required to root themselves in a New Jerusalem.”

How had been the megaliths transported from South Wales to Salisbury? Dr. Parker Pearson doubts the as soon as well-liked idea that they got here by sea. “Our work has actually put a little bit of a spoke in that,” he mentioned. “The dominant sources of the bluestones are the quarries on the northern slopes of the mountains, and it appears unlikely that they might have been introduced up the steep northern edge earlier than being carried down the southern slopes to the valley.”

He favors a land route, over which the huge stones, every weighing as much as 4 tons, may very well be hauled on rows of poles and picket sledges by as many as 400 individuals. “This could have been like going to the moon,” he mentioned, “however the Neolithic equal.”

Megan Specia contributed reporting.

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