Ancient stone circle discovered in Wales could have been dismantled and rebuilt as Stonehenge
rchaeologists made an “astonishing breakthrough” with the discovery of the remains of an ancient stone in Wales which they believe could have been dismantled and rebuilt as Stonehenge. Experts believe that “they may have recovered the true origins” of the ancient monument in the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire. It is the same area where the smaller “bluestones” found at Stonehenge, on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, are known to have come from.
The stone circle, named Waun Mawn, has key elements linking it to Stonehenge, said the team behind the discovery which was made during filming for a BBC programme. The archaeologists suggest the bluestones could have been moved as the ancient people of the Preseli region migrated, even taking their monuments with them, as a sign of their ancestral identity, and re-erecting them at Stonehenge, 175 miles away. It could explain why the bluestones, thought to be the first monoliths erected at Stonehenge, were brought from so far away, while most circles are constructed within a short distance of their quarries, the experts said.
Archaeological investigations as part of the “Stones of Stonehenge” research project, led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson of University College London, previously excavated two bluestone quarries in the Preseli Hills.
The ancient stone circle was found in the Preseli Hills in Pembrokeshire
Their discovery that the bluestones had been extracted before the first stage of Stonehenge was built in 3000 BC prompted the team to re-investigate the nearby Waun Mawn stones to see if it was the site of a stone circle supplied by the quarry and later moved. Only four monoliths remain at the site, but an archaeological dig in 2018 revealed holes where stones would have stood, showing the remaining stones are part of a wider circle of 30-50 stones. And the scientific dating of charcoal and sediment from the holes reveal it was put up around 3400 BC.
TV scientist Professor Alice Roberts said the production company was convinced they were going to make a discovery. She told the PA news agency: “So they’ve been following his story and him and his team on this trail for nearly 10 years. That’s in the programme.
“For a long time, it honestly didn’t look as though they were going to find anything…
Professor Alice Roberts and Mike Parker Pearson as they appear in BBC Two’s new programme Stonehenge: The Lost Circle Revealed
“But to end up with this astonishing breakthrough and to have a production company there filming the whole thing over the years is just amazing.” Findings of the discovery, published in the journal Antiquity, show significant links between Stonehenge and Waun Mawn. The Welsh circle has a diameter of 360ft (110m), the same as the ditch that encloses Stonehenge, and both are aligned on the midsummer solstice sunrise.
Several of the monoliths at the World Heritage Site on Salisbury Plain are of the same rock type as those that still remain at the Welsh site. And one of the bluestones at Stonehenge has an unusual cross-section which matches one of the holes left at Waun Mawn, suggesting the monolith began its life as part of the stone circle in the Preseli Hills before being moved. Waun Mawn is the third biggest stone circle in Britain and one of the earliest, and confirms that the region was an important and densely settled area in Neolithic times until 3000 BC when activity seems to have ceased.
The site was found in Wales
Prof Parker Pearson said: “It’s as if they just vanished.
Maybe most of the people migrated, taking their stones – their ancestral identities – with them.” Analysis of the remains of people buried at Stonehenge at the time the bluestones were erected there would seem to back up the theory, as it shows some of them were from western Britain, possibly Wales. With only a few of the Stonehenge stones directly linked to Waun Mawn, the archaeologists also believe monoliths from other stone circles could have been taken from Wales to form part of the new monument.
Prof Parker Pearson said: “With an estimated 80 bluestones put up on Salisbury Plain at Stonehenge and nearby Bluestonehenge, my guess is that Waun Mawn was not the only stone circle that contributed to Stonehenge.
“Maybe there are more in Preseli waiting to be found. Who knows? Someone will be lucky enough to find them.”
Stonehenge: The Lost Circle Revealed will be broadcast on BBC Two at 9pm on Friday February 12.
Reporting by PA Media.
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