/Missing piece of Stonehenge returned after 60 years abroad, may help reveal origins of monoliths

Missing piece of Stonehenge returned after 60 years abroad, may help reveal origins of monoliths

Updated

May 08, 2019 22:50:46

A piece of stone drilled from Stonehenge, a mysterious circle of ancient stones in southern England, has been returned to the site 60 years after being removed, English Heritage has revealed.

Key points:

  • A man decided on his 90th birthday to return the removed piece
  • It is one of three pieces taken 60 years ago, the other two remain lost
  • Archaeologists said the piece will help determine the origins of the sarsen stones

The cylinder, which is 1.08-metres-long and has a diameter of 25 millimetres, was taken from one of the monoliths in 1958 when the cracked stone was strengthened with metal rods.

An employee of the company undertaking the restoration work, Robert Phillips, kept one of cores and later took it with him when he emigrated to the United States.

However as his 90th birthday approached Mr Roberts revealed a desire for the stone to be returned, which his sons did last year and then revealed to the public on Wednesday (local time).

Heather Sebire, English Heritage’s curator for Stonehenge, said the return of the core had come as a complete shock.

“The last thing we ever expected was to get a call from someone in America telling us they had a piece of Stonehenge,” she said.

“We are very grateful to the Phillips family for bringing this intriguing piece of Stonehenge back home.”

The whereabouts of two other cores taken at the same time remains a mystery.

Radiocarbon dating shows that Stonehenge, a ring of about 4-metre-high standing stones was constructed 4,000-5,000 years ago for reasons unknown

While it is known the smaller stones at Stonehenge had come from Wales, it is unclear where the larger sarsen stones originated from and it is hoped the returned core will help in the search.

“Studying the Stonehenge core’s DNA could tell us more about where those enormous sarsen stones originated,” Ms Sebire said.

A British Academy and Leverhulme Trust project, led by professor David Nash of the University of Brighton, is investigating the chemical composition of the sarsen stones in order to pinpoint their source.

“Conventional wisdom suggests that they all came from the relatively nearby Marlborough Downs but initial results from our analysis suggest that in fact the sarsens may come from more than one location,” said Dr Nash.

“Our geochemical fingerprinting of the sarsens in situ at Stonehenge, and of the core itself, when compared with samples from areas across southern England will hopefully tell us where the different stones came from.”

Topics:

history,

historians,

archaeology,

united-states,

united-kingdom

First posted

May 08, 2019 22:38:52