Find backs theory that monument was dismantled and dragged over 140 miles to Wiltshire
An ancient myth about Stonehenge, first recorded 900 years ago, tells of the wizard Merlin leading men to Ireland to capture a magical stone circle called the Giants’ Dance and rebuilding it in England as a memorial to the dead.
Geoffrey of Monmouth’s account had been dismissed, partly because he was wrong on other historical facts, although the bluestones of the monument came from a region of Wales that was considered Irish territory in his day.
Now a vast stone circle created by our Neolithic ancestors has been discovered in Wales with features suggesting that the 12th-century legend may not be complete fantasy.
Its diameter of 110 metres is identical to the ditch that encloses Stonehenge and it is aligned on the midsummer solstice sunrise, just like the Wiltshire monument.
A series of buried stone-holes that follow the circle’s outline has been unearthed, with shapes that can be linked to Stonehenge’s bluestone pillars. One of them bears an imprint in its base that matches the unusual cross-section of a Stonehenge bluestone “like a key in a lock”, the archaeologists discovered.
Mike Parker Pearson, a professor of British later prehistory at University College London, told the Guardian: “I’ve been researching Stonehenge for 20 years now and this really is the most exciting thing we’ve ever found.”
The evidence backs a century-old theory that the nation’s greatest prehistoric monument was built in Wales and venerated for hundreds of years before being dismantled and dragged to Wiltshire, where it was resurrected as a second-hand monument.
The discovery will be published in Antiquity, the peer-reviewed journal of world archaeology, and explored in a documentary on BBC Two on Friday presented by Prof Alice Roberts.
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The acidic soil had destroyed almost all organic matter that could have been carbon-dated. But traces of ancient sunlight lingering in the soil was analysed and gave a likely construction date of around 3,300BC – finally confirming Stonehenge’s secret, lost history.
University of Sheffield’s archaeology team argue vital work will be lost if threatened closure goes ahead
Important research on Stonehenge could be put in jeopardy if the threatened closure of one of the UK’s most renowned university archaeology departments goes ahead, leading experts on the prehistoric monument have warned.
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