Saturday, April 23, 2011

Mystery Of Stonehenge

          No place has generated so much speculation and wild theories as the standing stones of Stonehenge. After driving for miles through the rolling hills and plains of the English countryside the sight of this unusual structure makes people gasp. A walk around it only provokes more strange feelings. There's a sense that this is something very important. It taunts us with it's mystery. For over 5000 years it has stood silent vigil over the earth. It has been excavated, x-rayed, measured, and surveyed. Yet despite all that has been learned about its age and construction, its purpose still remains one of the great mysteries of the world.

Around 3500 BC the semi-nomadic peoples that populated the Salisbury Plain began to build the monument now known as Stonehenge. The original construction was a circular ditch and mound with 56 holes forming a ring around its perimeter. The first stone to be placed at the site was the Heel Stone. It was erected outside of a single entrance to the site. 200 years later 80 blocks of bluestone was transported from a quarry almost 200 miles away in the Prescelly Mountains. It is surmised that these blocks were transported by way of rafts along the Welsh coast and up local rivers, finally to be dragged overland to the site. These stones were erected forming two concentric circles.

At some point this construction was dismantled and work began on the final phase of the site. The bluestones were moved within the circle and the gigantic stones that give Stonehenge its distinctive look were installed. Some of these massive stones weigh as much as 26 tons! It remains a mystery how such huge stones could have been moved from the quarry at north Wiltshire by a supposedly primitive people.
      ARCHAEOLOGISTS have solved one of the greatest mysteries of Stonehenge:

          The exact spot from where its huge stones were quarried.A team has pinpointed the precise place in Wales from where the bluestones were removed in about 2500 BC.
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 "band of brothers" found near Stonehenge were Welshmen who 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 epic journey from the Preseli Hills 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 amazing discovery.

Prof Darvill said, "When we came across the enclosure we couldn't believe it. You dream about finding things like this but don't really think they exist. 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.

"This is a great discovery and opens up the door for many more.

"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.

"In 2500 BC things were a lot more primitive so the builders would have looked for rocks which were naturally displaced.

"They then would have put them on a river and taken them to Stonehenge that way.

The "band of brothers" found last year, were a family unit of three adults, one teenager and three children buried in the same grave 4,300 years ago, at the start of the metal age.

The family were found on Boscombe Down and were soon christened the "Boscombe bowmen."

The burials were found near to the site where the famously wealthy "Amesbury archer" was uncovered three years ago.

Prof Darvill's discovery will be published in the July-August edition of British Archaeology.

He has been researching Stonehenge for the last 10 years.

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