Stonehenge’s first home?: Stonehenge Built In Wales
Published: December 7, 2015
Stonehenge’s first home?: Stonehenge Built In Wales, Stonehenge may have been originally built in Wales hundreds of years before the monument was taken down and rebuilt in its current location, according to archaeologists.
Researchers have discovered two prehistoric quarries in Pembrokeshire, 140 miles away from Stonehenge, which appear to be the origin of the bluestones used to build the monument.
However, carbon dating reveals that the stones were dug out at least 500 years before Stonehenge was built – implying that they could have been used locally first.
One archaeologist suggested that the new evidence shows Stonehenge was ‘a second-hand monument’, with the site where its stones were quarried being ‘the Ikea of Neolithic monument building’.
It has long been known that the bluestones which form Stonehenge’s inner ring came from western Wales, and were transported to Wiltshire using primitive Stone Age technology.
Now archaeologists have discovered series of recesses in the rocky outcrops of Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin, in Pembrokeshire, that match Stonehenge’s bluestones in size and shape.
They have even found similar stones that the prehistoric builders extracted, but left behind, and ‘a loading bay’ from where the huge stones could be dragged away.
Carbonised hazelnut shells and charcoal from the quarry-workers’ camp fires accumulated in soil over thousands of years have been radiocarbon dated to reveal when the stones would have been extracted.
Professor Mike Parker Pearson of University College London, the director of the project, said: ‘We have dates of around 3400 BC for Craig Rhos-y-felin and 3200 BC for Carn Goedog, which is intriguing because the bluestones didn’t get put up at Stonehenge until around 2900 BC.
‘It could have taken those Neolithic stone-draggers nearly 500 years to get them to Stonehenge, but that’s pretty improbable in my view.
‘It’s more likely that the stones were first used in a local monument, somewhere near the quarries, that was then dismantled and dragged off to Wiltshire.’
He said it was a ‘possibility’ that the evidence could mean Stonehenge is older than previously thought.
But he added: ‘We think it’s more likely that they were building their own monument, that somewhere near the quarries there is the first Stonehenge and that what we’re seeing at Stonehenge is a second-hand monument.’
There is also the possibility that the stones were taken to Salisbury Plain around 3200 BC and that the giant sarsens in the outer ring, which come from within 20 miles of the site, were added much later.
The function of Stonehenge remains a long-standing mystery, although it is believed to have something to do with religious ceremonies revolving around the solstice.
The Stonehenge project’s findings are published today in the journal Antiquity alongside a new book by the Council for British Archaeology, titled Stonehenge: Making Sense of a Prehistoric Mystery.
Professor Kate Welham of Bournemouth University believes that the ruins of a dismantled monument are likely to lie between the two megalith quarries.
‘We’ve been conducting geophysical surveys, trial excavations and aerial photographic analysis throughout the area and we think we have the most likely spot,’ she said. ‘The results are very promising. We may find something big in 2016.’
The long-distance transport of the bluestones from Wales to Stonehenge, apparently using wooden sledges sliding on rail-like timbers, is one of the most remarkable achievements of Neolithic societies.
Professor Parker Pearson said that people in Madagascar and other societies have been known to move such standing stones long distances and that doing so is ‘a big public spectacle’ bringing together communities from afar.
‘One of the latest theories is that Stonehenge is a monument of unification, bringing together people from across the many parts of Britain,’ he said.
The researcher added: ‘It’s the Ikea of Neolithic monument building. The nice thing about these particular outcrops is that the rock has formed – 480million years ago – as pillars.
‘So prehistoric people don’t have to go in there and bash away – all they have to do is get wedges into the cracks. You wet the wedge, it swells and the stone pops off the rock.’
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