It is one of the great questions of our age, where did Stonehenge come from, but groundbreaking new research has moved experts one step closer to finding the story behind the ancient monument.
History buffs have long known the blocks of stone originated 180 miles away in the Preseli hills, West Wales, but this study has now pinpointed the exact spot where the attraction’s smaller bluestones were first formed.
The discovery published in the archaeological journal Antiquity shows the 42 bluestones originated at two megalith quarries – Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-Felin – and date back to 3000BC.
The incredible find was made by a team of archaeologists and geologists from UCL, Bournemouth University, University of Southampton, University of the Highlands and Islands and National Museum of Wales, which have been investigating the ancient sites for the past eight years.
Mike Parker Pearson, archaeology professor at the University College London, said it is a great discovery and one that will lead them closer to uncovering the truth behind the Wiltshire landmark.
In a statement he said: “Every other Neolithic monument in Europe was built of megaliths brought from no more than 10 miles away.
“What’s really exciting about these discoveries is that they take us a step closer to unlocking Stonehenge’s greatest mystery – why its stones came from so far away.
“We’re now looking to find out just what was so special about the Preseli hills 5,000 years ago, and whether there were any important stone circles here, built before the bluestones were moved to Stonehenge.”
The new study also revealed the bluestone outcrops were formed of natural, vertical pillars, which, unlike quarries in ancient Egypt, were much easier to exploit.
Neolithic quarry workers would only have inserted wedges into the ready-made joints between pillars, then lower each pillar to the foot of the outcrop.
Prof Pearson added: “The stone wedges are made of imported mudstone, much softer than the hard dolerite pillars. An engineering colleague has suggested that hammering in a hard wedge could have created stress fractures, causing the thin pillars to crack.
“Using a soft wedge means that, if anything were to break, it would be the wedge and not the pillar.”
Despite the exciting news, the study doesn’t solve the biggest mystery surrounding Stonehenge, that being, how was it even built?
However, one thing it does is eliminates the theory that the stones were transported to Wiltshire by sea.
Professor Kate Welham from Bournemouth University said: “Some people think that the bluestones were taken southwards to Milford Haven and placed on rafts or slung between boats and then paddled up the Bristol Channel and along the Bristol Avon towards Salisbury Plain.
“But these quarries are on the north side of the Preseli hills so the megaliths could have simply gone overland all the way to Salisbury Plain.”
So, not quite what we wanted to know but it’s something.