Stonehenge: Expert says drone reveals ‘hidden features’
The story of Stonehenge took a dramatic turn last month after researchers uncovered the remains of the Waun Mawn site at Pembrokeshire’s Preseli Hills, southwest Wales. Its discovery quickly proved to be one of Britain’s biggest and oldest stone circles, and could be the original building blocks of Stonehenge. Experts believe the stones might have been taken apart and rebuilt 150 miles away, on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, where it stands today.
The age of the structure was explored during National Geographic’s Naked Science documentary, ‘Who Built Stonehenge?’
With Stonehenge far older than the Roman Empire, the Druids and the European settlers who trickled onto the island in the years before, the documentary noted: “The first phase predated the Great Pyramids of Egypt.”
The earliest known major event at Stonehenge was the construction of a circular ditch with an inner and outer bank, built in around 3000 BC.
It enclosed an area about 100 metres in diameter and had two entrances, the early form of henge monument and the beginnings of what has become one of the world’s greatest mysteries.
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A number of tests at the site to determine a timeframe and people suggests the structure was the work of ancient Britons, what National Geographic described as a “primitive and little-known people”.
It seems almost unbelievable that 4,500 years ago Britain was nearing the end of the Stone Age, moving into the Bronze Age.
People then were hand-to-mouth subsistence farmers, technologically undeveloped and just starting to understand how to work with metal.
The fact has eluded researchers for decades, that these people managed to transport and construct such a feat of engineering.
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How they might have delivered the now famous bluestone from south west Wales to Salisbury is another mystery.
In the documentary, the “Ice Age theory” was explored: “Perhaps ancient Britons found the stones lying around on Salisbury Plain deposited there by a powerful force of nature – the movement of ice.”
Britain’s Ice Age saw massive ice sheets blanket the isles from the Arctic, many reaching as far as southern England, around 20,000 years ago.
It is not a new suggestion with researchers having suggested that the glaciers, so powerful, could easily have swept huge rocks across the landscape.
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In a 2015 paper, Dr Brian John, Dr Dyfed Elis-Gruffydd and John Downes published a report in the ‘Archaeology in Wales’ journal, claiming there were “no traces of human intervention in any of the features that have made the archaeologists so excited”.
The group rejected the idea that the Preseli Hills acted as a Neolithic quarry, as had been suggested shortly before by researchers at University College London (UCL) and other institutions in what was considered a groundbreaking study.
The UCL team said their findings showed how our prehistoric ancestors used two sites, in Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin, to quarry the bluestone used in Stonehenge.
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Instead, the trio said the supposed signs of “quarrying” by humans at Craig Rhos-y-Felin were entirely natural, suggesting that a number of different landforms and sediments, related to events during the Ice Age, were closer related to the site and rocks found on Salisbury Plain.
In the paper, Dr John said: “There is substantial evidence in favour of glacial transport and zero evidence in support of the human transport theory.
“We think the archaeologists have been so keen on telling a good story here that they have ignored or misinterpreted the evidence in front of them.
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“That’s very careless. They now need to undertake a complete reassessment of the material they have collected.”
The paper they responded to included researchers from UCL, the University of Manchester, Bournemouth University, the University of Southampton, the National Museum Wales, and Dyfed Archaeological Trust, and was published in the journal ‘Antiquity’.