Science | August 4, 2020 7:00 am

Scientists Discover Where Stonehenge’s Boulders Came From

Technology confirms a longstanding theory

Stonehenge structure in Wiltshire, England
Another mystery of Stonehenge has been solved.
Frédéric Vincent/Creative Commons

The towering structures of Stonehenge have captivated the imagination of people for hundreds of years, if not longer. For some, the appeal can be found in the historic importance of the site, and the questions that come to mind over what it might have been used for. For others, the logistics of how such a space was assembled continues to beguile and puzzle. It doesn’t hurt that it remains a compelling, scenic and mysterious site in its own right, regardless of its origins.

That being said, scientists have apparently solved one mystery about how Stonehenge was built. A new article at Wired by Kiona N. Smith explores how modern technology has confirmed a theory that scientists have had about part of the structure’s origins for many centuries. The stones used for the structure fall into two categories: sarsens and bluestones. The sarsens are the larger of the two, while the bluestones were there first.

For centuries, the conventional wisdom was that the sarsens had come from Marlborough Downs, located 25 kilometers from Stonehenge. Archaeologist David Nash used an analysis of the non-silica material in the sarsens to confirm that suspicion.

That extra material is different in different sarsen sources, as it depends on the minerals in the ground where the rock formed. Nash and his colleagues used those trace elements as a geochemical fingerprint to match the Stonehenge sarsens to their most likely source.

The results of their study offered scientific confirmation of what many had believed and helped answer several other longstanding questions about Stonehenge along the way. It’s a fascinating solution to one of the many mysteries surrounding the storied structure, and one that allows for more exploration of its engineering and history.

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