Stonehenge is one of the most iconic ancient monuments in the world, and archaeologists finally know where it came from. A team led by scientists from University College London Institute of Archaeology has located and excavated the quarries where Stonehenge’s famous bluestones were excavated. As previously speculated, they came from hundreds of miles away in Wales, but the timing of their excavation is something of a surprise.
The more recognizable Stonehenge monoliths are the giant standing stones, which are made of sarsen, a sandstone native to the area. Within the ring of standing stones are the bluestones, smaller monoliths that may have originally been used as grave markers. They were the first monoliths to be placed at the Stonehenge site. These stones are made of igneous rock known as dolerite and rhyolite. It’s not native to the area, so researchers have long suspected that it was brought from quarries in Preseli hills in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
The team has now definitively identified the outcrop of Carn Goedog as the source of dolerite bluestones and the outcrop of Craig Rhos-y-felin as the source of rhyolite bluestones in Stonehenge. The natural formations of these rocks (see above) allowed the bronze age workers to remove the 2-ton monoliths with relative ease. Carbon dating from the quarry workers’ fire pits indicate that bluestones were quarried at several times. Craig Rhos-y-felin was active around 3400 BCE and Carn Goedog around 3200 BCE.
The first bluestones weren’t erected at the Stonehenge site until 2900 BCE. So, for several centuries, these monoliths were sitting someplace else, then were moved to Stonehenge. Archaeologists are currently searching the area between the two megalith quarries in hopes of finding the original monument site. This might finally help explain why Stonehenge was constructed and why the bluestones were brought from so far away, This is all so exciting.