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Reading University helps solve mystery of Stonehenge's giant megaliths

Credit: Andre Pattenden, English Heritage.

The origin of the giant sarsen stones at Stonehenge has finally been revealed, thanks to research jointly carried out by the University of Reading.

The discovery came after one of the stones was returned to English Heritage from America last year. 

It had been drilled from the prehistoric temple during repair work, more than 60 years ago.

Subsequent analysis of the stone core revealed that West Woods is the source of the 20-tonne megaliths, on the edge of Wiltshire's Marlborough Downs.

Susan Greaney, English Heritage Senior Properties Historian, called the discovery a "real thrill". It's thought the issue has puzzled archaeologists for hundreds of years.

The source of the sarsens, which are around seven metres tall, is only a 40-minute drive from Stonehenge.

These particular megaliths form all 15 stones of Stonehenge’s central horseshoe, part of the outer circle, as well the outlying Station Stones, Heel Stone and Slaughter Stone.

Katy Whitaker, a doctoral researcher in Archaeology at the University of Reading, who also works for Historic England, said: "This has been one of the outstanding questions for so long - exactly where the giant stones that loom over visitors' heads at Stonehenge came from.

“Moving the enormous stones any distance would have been a huge task.

"Finally pinpointing their original location to relatively nearby in the Marlborough Downs offers clues as to how the stones were transported, and will help us get a clearer picture of the building process for Stonehenge".

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