Stonehenge: Was it Relocated?

The discovery of a dismantled stone circle—close to Stonehenge’s bluestone quarries in west Wales—raises the possibility that a 900-year-old legend about Stonehenge being built from an earlier stone circle contains a grain of truth. Radiocarbon and OSL dating of Waun Mawn indicate construction c. 3000 BC, shortly before the initial construction of Stonehenge. The identical diameters of Waun Mawn and the enclosing ditch of Stonehenge, and their orientations on the midsummer solstice sunrise, suggest that at least part of the Waun Mawn circle was brought from west Wales to Salisbury Plain. This interpretation complements recent isotope work that supports a hypothesis of migration of both people and animals from Wales to Stonehenge.

In the oldest story of Stonehenge’s origins, the History of the Kings of Britain (c. AD 1136), Geoffrey of Monmouth describes how the monument was built using stones from the Giants’ Dance stone circle in Ireland. Located on legendary Mount Killaraus, the circle was dismantled by Merlin and shipped to Amesbury on Salisbury Plain by a force of 15,000 men, who had defeated the Irish and captured the stones. According to the legend, Stonehenge was built to commemorate the death of Britons who were treacherously killed by Saxons during peace talks at Amesbury. Merlin wanted the stones of the Giants’ Dance for their magical, healing properties.

This 900-year-old legend is fantasy: the Saxons arrived not in prehistory, but only 700 years before Geoffrey’s own time, and none of Stonehenge’s stones came from Ireland. Yet the fact that Stonehenge’s ‘bluestones’ derive from Wales—far to the west of Salisbury Plain—has led to speculation that there may be some truth in Geoffrey’s pseudo-history. Moreover, at the time Geoffrey was writing, this region of south-west Wales was considered Irish territory. One possibility is that the bluestones did indeed derive from a stone circle in west Wales, which was dismantled and re-erected as Stonehenge. A similar conclusion was reached a century ago by geologist Herbert Thomas, who established that the spotted dolerite bluestones at Stonehenge originated in the Preseli Hills of west Wales, where, he suspected, they had originally formed a “venerated stone-circle”

Source: Journal Antiquity

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