The first complete 3D laser scan of Stonehenge’s iconic prehistoric stone circle revealed details normally invisible to the naked eye, The Guardian reports, including “tool marks made 4,500 years ago, scores of little axehead graffiti added when the enormous slabs were already 1,000 years old, and damage and graffiti contributed by Georgian and Victorian visitors.”
Investigators also confirmed the importance of the monument’s alignment on the winter and summer solstice. The largest, most impressive and uniform stones, the digital scan showed, were prominently set where they would be seen first by people approaching the monument from the northeast, which would have lent a particularly spectacular vision in the midwinter sunset. Like modern masons, The Guardian writes, the ancient architects wanted to put their best work where the highest number of viewers would congregate and admire it.
“Now we can see how the utmost care and attention was devoted to ensuring the pristine appearance of Stonehenge for those completing their final approach to the monument along the solstitial axis,” archaeoastronomist Clive Ruggles told the paper.
The researchers said that everywhere they looked, even on the weathered faces of stones which had been lying on the ground for centuries, they found evidence of tool marks. Furthermore, some cracks and markings that experts long assumed were carvings turned out to be natural features.
All in all, the survey produced 850 gigabytes of data from their scans of the stones’ faces—the equivalent of 750 million pages of printed text or 200,000 music files. The highlights of these findings will be featured at the long-awaited new Stonehenge visitor center, scheduled to open next year.
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