Is Stonehenge a Hand-Me-Down Monument?

New research suggests the monument was first built in Wales then dragged 180 miles to its current location

2/Steve Allen/Ocean/Corbis

You’d think that at some point, we would know as much as there is to know about the huge stone structures at Stonehenge. After all, how much mystery can a pile of rocks contain? Plenty, apparently—and this week, the story of Stonehenge got even more impressive. National Geographic’s Nick Romeo reports that researchers have discovered that the monument’s rocks were dragged from a quarry in Wales about 5,000 years ago.

Geologists found evidence of tools, platforms, ramps, food and fires at a site in North Pembrokshire, Wales about 180 miles from Stonehenge, writes Romeo. Stones there match the 43 remaining stones at the monument, which are made from spotted dolerite that can only be found in North Pembrokshire.

In a paper published in Antiquity, the research team notes that a discrepancy in dates between activity in Wales and the construction of Stonehenge leads them to believe that Stonehenge’s builders extracted the stones in Wales, moved them to a local monument, then dismantled and transferred the monument to Wiltshire.

If archaeologists are right, the mystery of Stonehenge is that much more incredible. After all, it’s no small feat to get 80 monoliths across 180 miles using only Neolithic technology. Geologists found evidence of a loading bay, platforms and ramps and believe that the team dragged the stones using ropes, levers and sheer manpower.

Next, researchers want to find evidence of the interim monument they believe predates Stonehenge.  The Guardian’s Dalya Alberge writes that aerial analysis, geophysical surveys and other clues will hopefully help researchers reconstruct where the rocks went after they left the quarry at Craig Rhos-y-felin.

The famous monument might be hand-me-down, but learning where it first was built could add even more mystery—and wonder—to Stonehenge’s strange story.

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