|25 June 2005
Light shed on mystery of Stonehenge bluestones
A university professor believes he has solved one of the oldest Stonehenge mysteries - the exact location in Wales where the bluestones were quarried. A team may have pinpointed the precise place in Wales from where the bluestones were removed in about 2500 BCE. It found the small crag-edged enclosure at one of the highest points of the 1,008ft high Carn Menyn mountain in Pembrokeshire's Preseli Hills.
The enclosure is just over one acre in size but, according to team leader Professor Tim Darvill, it provides a veritable "Aladdin's Cave" of made-to-measure pillars for aspiring circle builders. Within and outside the enclosure are numerous prone pillar stones with clear signs of working. Some are fairly recent and a handful of drill holes attest to the technology used. Other blocks may have been wrenched from the ground or the crags in ancient times. They were then moved 240 miles to the famous site at Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.
The discovery comes a year after scientists proved that the remains of a a family unit of three adults, one teenager and three children buried in the same grave 4,300 years ago, found near Stonehenge, were Welshmen who could have transported the stones. The skeletons were found by workmen laying a pipe on Boscombe Down and chemical analysis of their teeth revealed they were brought up in South West Wales. Experts believed the family accompanied the stones on their journey to Salisbury Plain.
Now Prof Darvill, colleague Geoff Wainwright, a retired English Heritage archaeologist, and six researchers and students from Bournemouth University have confirmed where exactly they uncovered the stones. The team have spent the past three years on the project. They scoured a 3km-square area in the highest points of Carn Menyn where they made the discovery.
Prof Darvill said, "We have done geological and chemical tests which are still ongoing but show the quarry is the exact place. Geographically, the bluestones are very distinctive and could have only come from a very certain area. We already knew it was in the Preseli Hills but the geological tests combined with the chemical test results make us sure we have found it. Nobody can be sure why the stones were taken from there to Salisbury but I believe it is because they were regarded as holy or to do with a deity of some kind."
"Three things are clear from just looking around the site," he said. "First, those outcrops have been exploited as a source of stone for a long time and much has been taken away. Second, our understanding of what a 'quarry' is perhaps needs to be modified because here the extraction of pillars simply involves leavening suitably shaped but naturally detached blocks from the ground or a fractured outcrop. And third, the remoteness of the place and its mountain top situation invite comparison with other known sources of prized stone, exploited for axe heads during the fourth and third millennia BC."
"Hopefully in the future we will be able to trace the exact holes where the stones were extracted from. It isn't going to be a massive hole in the ground as we understand a quarry to be these days." he added. Gwilym Hughes, Director of Cambria Archaeology, the south west Wales archaeological trust, said Mr Darvill still had some work to do to prove his theory beyond doubt. But he said: "They have put forward a very reasoned argument which I found very convincing and very compelling.
Sources: BBC News, Western Mail, icWales (24 June 2005)
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