In the 1500s, a British antiquities expert examined Stonehenge's biggest slabs and said he knew where they came from. Now, more than four centuries later, scientists are saying that William Lambarde was right on the money, solving one of the world's great archaeological and geological mysteries. The New York Times explains that two types of stones make up the ancient monument: smaller bluestones that have already been tracked to the Preseli Hills in Wales, and the sandstone sarsens that are part of Stonehenge's large central horseshoe and have remained a head-scratcher. Now, thanks to a study in the Science Advances journal, scientists have pinpointed the original location of the sarsen megaliths—this time to West Woods, a forested area in Marlborough Downs about 15 miles north of Stonehenge.
The researchers first used geochemical data to show 50 of the 52 remaining sarsens likely all came from the same source. They then compared the geochemical data of the unweathered inner core from Stone 58—a piece drilled out in the '50s during repair work, taken home by a worker, and only last year returned to English Heritage, the charity running Stonehenge—to the makeup of sarsens throughout southern Britain. West Woods emerged as "the most probable source area" for most of the megaliths. "MYSTERY SOLVED! ... (almost certainly)," English Heritage tweeted Wednesday. One other mystery remains: Two of the sarsens, Stone 26 and Stone 160, are outliers, coming from somewhere other than West Woods. "It has been really exciting to harness 21st-century science to ... finally answer a question that archaeologists have been debating for centuries," study lead author David Nash tells CNN. (Read more Stonehenge stories.)