Perhaps one of the greatest archeological mysteries has yet to be solved is Stonehenge, an ancient rock circle that has stumped experts since its discovery. According to CNN, however, that mystery may not remain unsolved for much longer, as it's believed that researchers have made a breakthrough discovery in regard to where these massive stones actually hailed from.
These stones date back to the prehistoric era and have sat in Wiltshire, England, as thousands of visitors come each year to experience their unknown intrigue. A mysterious location for sure, experts have spent this whole time trying to solve the mystery of where the stones came from and how they came to be.
English Heritage recently sent out a tweet that read, "MYSTERY SOLVED!", gaining the attention of many a Stonehenge-follower. The tweet went on to explain why the mystery had, indeed, almost nearly been solved, saying, "We FINALLY (almost certainly...) know where Stonehenge's giant sarsen stones come from."
From A Location Nearby
It's believed that the smaller stones, known as bluestones, came from Preseli Hills in Wales. However, what remained a mystery was the largest stones, also known as megaliths, which were determined to have a composition of sarsen. Due to the fact that sarsen is local sandstone, experts knew that the stones must have come from somewhere within the area, but pinning down the exact location was nearly impossible without the missing piece... And that missing piece is literally what led researchers to the answer.
A core from one of the megalith stones was kept by an excavator in 1958 and was recently returned in 2019. With this missing core piece, archeologists were able to "piece together the puzzle," according to CNN. That missing core was then analyzed with various rock formations around the area of Stonehenge until a match was eventually found. Researchers compared this process to something akin to matching a "chemical fingerprint," which is not nearly as easy as it sounds.
The best match from the group was from a woodland roughly 40 minutes away, the West Woods. Of the discovery, David Nash, from the University of Brighton, said, "It has been really exciting to harness 21st-century science to understand the Neolithic past, and finally answer a question that archaeologists have been debating for centuries." Interestingly enough, West Woods is a fairly popular location, featuring walking trails and lush wildflowers.
Some Mysteries Are Still Unanswered
While this one mystery has finally been solved, there are still some questions about Stonehenge that remain unanswered. One of which is where two other stones in the circle, which don't match any "chemical fingerprints," came from. Researchers theorize that these stones might have come from completely different builders altogether who came from a different community, which would explain why the stones don't match up with any in the immediate area.
With the answer for the West Wood stones came more questions, as well. One question that's being asked is why the West Wood forest was so important for finding these stones, although researchers figure it's due to the size of the stones in comparison to others in the area. Historian Susan Greaney, a co-author of the study said in the statement by English Heritage, "We can now say, when sourcing the sarsens, the over-riding objective was size -- they wanted the biggest, most substantial stones they could find and it made sense to get them from as nearby as possible. This is in stark contrast to the source of the bluestones, where something quite different -- a sacred connection to these mountains perhaps -- was at play. Yet again this evidence highlights just how carefully considered and deliberate the building of this phase of Stonehenge was."
Another major question that remains unanswered, similar to the building of the Great Pyramids of Egypt, is how the stones were moved to that exact location. Neolithic building methods are not yet clear enough to determine how builders were able to carry these stones such long distances, especially with the West Woods being located as far away as it is. For this part of the study, in particular, researchers would begin focusing on a "specific extraction pits" for the sarsen stones in order to figure out precisely where in the West Woods these stones came from.
Overall, researchers are highly pleased and express significant excitement over the discovery of this part of the equation. With this new information, they can move forward in their research and begin to learn more about the ancient site, of which still remains very much one of the earth's most mysterious destinations.