There are still many unknowns regarding Stonehenge, a ring of stones in southwest England that has fascinated the world, including Buzz Aldrin, for centuries. Those unknowns include both how and why the ring was constructed, considering there is little to no evidence of construction and the society which built the ring evidently kept no written records. But luckily for the archaeologists, they did leave bones.
Under careful supervision, the team from the University of Oxford, University College London, Université Libre de Bruxelles & Vrije Universiteit Brussel and the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle de Paris, France, analyzed the skull bones of the 25 individuals who were buried at the site.
To give a sense of Stonehenge's history, these bodies were originally excavated back in 1920s. Their bodies were found in what are named Aubrey holes, named the man who discovered them: John Aubrey, a pioneer of the field of archaeology in 1666. Analysis of these bodies over the years has shown that these people were living around 3000 BC, an early point in Stonehenge's existence.
Using radiocarbon dating, the scientists analyzed the bones' strontium isotope ratios. Human bones absorb the element strontium through water and plant foods. When dealing with ancient peoples who could only eat localized foods, this matches the bone to a particular place.
The strontium levels within the bones matched with western Britain, a region that includes west Wales. With the strontium analysis has its limits, archaeologists also know that the stones from Stonehenge come from Wales, specifically an area known as the Preseli Mountains. These two facts are not a coincidence, the research team believes.
"The powerful combination of stable isotopes and spatial technology gives us a new insight into the communities who built Stonehenge," says John Pouncett of the University of Oxford, in a press statement. "The cremated remains from the enigmatic Aubrey Holes and updated mapping of the biosphere suggest that people from the Preseli Mountains not only supplied the bluestones used to build the stone circle, but moved with the stones and were buried there too."
The similarities between the Preseli Mountains and Stonehenge were already myriad. Neolithic structures in the area, like the Carreg Coetan Arthur, bare a similarity to Stonehenge, although lacking in the former's complexity. Using college students as experimental builders, scientists have grown to believe that the ring was probably constructed using sleds.
Source: University of Oxford
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