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New analysis reveals the Altar Stone at Stonehenge was not actually brought from Wales

History doesn’t disclose all its cards at once and a new revelation about the Stonehenge Altar Stone’s mineralogy has proven its origin is different from the other bluestones.

New analysis reveals the Altar Stone at Stonehenge was not actually brought from Wales
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | Samuel Wölfl

As time passes by and new technology reveals more about our past, one thing is certain, all of history is not known to us at the moment. New discoveries and revelations are popping up every week, giving more insight into the past that existed on this planet. The story behind England’s most notable historical monument, Stonehenge, just took a new turn. A new analysis has revealed something very interesting that will further affect the understanding of Britain’s history. Stonehenge is calculated to be 5,000 years old and is located on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, southwest England. It was built in stages over a period of thousands of years. It probably started with the erection of the original blocks of the 56 bluestones, which are said to have been sourced from the Mynydd Preseli area of Wales, 140 miles west of Stonehenge. The Altar Stone, which is the largest bluestone out of the smaller lithic group, has revealed some new information about its origins.

Image Source: Pexels | Kris Schulze
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Kris Schulze

According to the report published in the Journal of Archaeological Science, upon elaborate research using advanced techniques like X-ray fluorescence and Raman spectroscopy, researchers found the Altar Stone’s mineralogy to be different from that of the Old Red Sandstone (ORS) at the Anglo-Welsh Basin. What this ultimately meant was that the Altar Stone cannot be included in the same category as the bluestone rocks which were sourced from Mynydd Preseli.

The research also revealed that the Altar Stone is high in concentrations of baryte which is a mineral that consists of barium sulfate. This mineral composition of the Altar Stone is different than that of the ORS. When researching further for the source of similar mineral composition sandstones, the researchers found some deposits in Cumbria in north England and in the Scottish islands of Orkney and Shetland. So, it makes sense that these could be one of the origins of the Altar Stone and not Wales.

Image Source: ScienceDirect
Image Source: Science Direct

The report said, “It now seems ever more likely that the Altar Stone was not derived from the ORS of the Anglo-Welsh Basin and therefore, it is time to broaden our horizons, both geographically and stratigraphically into northern Britain and also to consider continental sandstones of a younger age. There is no doubt that considering the Altar Stone as a ‘bluestone’ has influenced thinking regarding the long-held view of a source in Wales. We, therefore, propose that the Altar Stone should be ‘de-classified’ as a bluestone, breaking a link to the essentially Mynydd Preseli-derived bluestones.

Image Source: Pexels | Alix Lee
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Alix Lee

It’s also interesting to note that these regions of Britain already boast of Neolithic monuments which means that the stones found in the area were probably used by the locals for ritualistic purposes. There is also evidence that points to a link between Stonehenge and places as far as Scotland at the time of the second stage of Stonehenge’s construction, around 2500 BCE. So, researchers have now hypothesized that it was probably around this time that the Altar Stone was brought to Stonehenge, way after the bluestones were settled in place. New revelations constantly keep adding to the history that is known to inch a step closer to the unknown. Even though we now know that the Altar Stone was not from Wales, further research is still required to match its composition to those of lithic deposits in northern England or Scotland. This still leaves the exact origin of the Altar Stone as a big question waiting to be answered.

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