Chronology for construction of Stonehenge challenged

- Sunday December 2nd, 2012 - 22:45 - Source: Live Science
A new timeline of Stonehenge's construction reveals that the massive sandstone megaliths were placed first, over 4,600 years ago, while the smaller bluestones were imported and arranged later.

The large inner horseshoe of sandstone megaliths at Stonehenge was raised over 4,600 years ago, the stones brought to the site from local quarries. After the sandstone megaliths were in place, the smaller bluestones were imported, probably from Wales, to be arranged later as Stonehenge's inner oval and outer circle. These findings from a new study were published in Antiquity's December issue.

The monument of Stonehenge from above, with the remaining stones of its outer bluestone circle, the sandstone horseshoe within and the inner bluestone oval. Image from

Earlier researches started from the idea that Stonehenge was at first a small monument, where the smaller bluestones were raised before the sandstone megaliths. Excavations done in 2008 have brought to light new artifacts, such as an antler-bone pick from the site, which had contradictional dating to these theories. The new timeline interpretation was created in combination with known dates of earlier finds.


In addition, the study overturns the notion that building each part of Stonehenge took hundreds of years, claiming that instead only a few generations built each of the larger elements.


"The sequence proposed for the site is really the wrong way around," said Timothy Darvill, co-author and archaeologist at Bournemouth University. "The original idea that it starts small and gets bigger is wrong. It starts big and stays big. The new scheme puts the big stones at the center at the site as the first stage."


The builders of the larger sandstone structures were part of a pig farmer culture only found in the British Isles, while the bluestone builders must have been part of the Beaker-culture, states Darvill. The Beaker-culture people were sheep and cow farmers who lived throughout Europe and are associated with distinctively decorated pottery in the shape of a bell.


The new chronology "connects everything together, it gives us a good sequence of events outside, and it gives us a set of cultural associations with the different stages of construction," explains Darvill.


Stonehenge. Imabe by Albo, Shutterstock / Live Science

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