Scientists Solve an Ancient Stonehenge Mystery: Where the Massive Rocks Came From

iStock.com/Onfokus
iStock.com/Onfokus

It's one of the greatest archaeological mysteries of all time: How did Neolithic peoples build Stonehenge—a massive, bluestone structure in an area where no stones of that kind can be found? As CNN reports, a new study answers some of the questions the site raises and puts other theories to rest.

The first stage of Stonehenge, located in what's now Salisbury, England, was built roughly 4000 years ago. Archaeologists have known for a while that the bluestones used to make Stonehenge originated from quarries in Pembrokeshire, Wales, 150 miles away, but how the stones arrived at their current spot is less clear. According to one theory, humans spent months transporting the materials, possibly with wooden sleighs on rollers, oxen, or river rafts.

Other experts insist that it would have been impossible to transport the 25-ton rocks such a great distance using primitive technology. Instead, they say the stones were placed there by glacial activity.

The new study published in the journal Antiquity debunks that idea. Archaeologists and geologists from the UK studied the smaller rocks used to build Stonehenge and pegged them to two quarries in the Preseli Hills of Wales. Upon visiting the sites, they discovered traces of tools, stone wedges, and digging activity. The evidence dates back to 3000 BCE, the same time when construction on Stonehenge started.

The results also dispel previously held beliefs concerning the rocks' origins. Though it's widely accepted that the stones came from the Preseli Hills, this study is the first to trace them to two specific quarries on the north side of the hills—Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin. It was thought for nearly a century that the rocks were excavated from the opposite side.

The research team says their findings suggest that materials used to make Stonehenge were moved by purposeful human activity rather than freak natural forces. But the study still leaves some questions unanswered, such as how the ancient peoples were able to transport the rocks 150 miles after digging them up. The fact that the rocks came from the north side of the Preseli Hills suggests they were dragged over land rather than transported by river—though the exact methods used remain a mystery .

[h/t CNN]

Mental Floss's Three-Day Sale Includes Deals on Apple AirPods, Sony Wireless Headphones, and More

Apple
Apple

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Apple

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Sony

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Sony

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Martha Stewart

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Jashen

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Evachill

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Gourmia

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Townew

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FenSens

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Noerden

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Prices subject to change.

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. If you haven't received your voucher or have a question about your order, contact the Mental Floss shop here.

Amazing Interactive Map Shows You Which Dinosaurs Roamed Your Neighborhood Millions of Years Ago

Is this midtown Manhattan?
Is this midtown Manhattan?
Orla/iStock via Getty Images

While most of us know that all sorts of prehistoric creatures once inhabited Earth, you might not realize which ones used to wander around your particular city.

Thanks to this interactive map, you can easily find out. Type in your city name, and you’ll see it plotted on the globe, along with a list of species whose fossils have been discovered nearby. If you click on the name of a species, a new webpage will open with details, images, and a map that shows where else that species lived.

Omaha, Nebraska, for example, was once home to the pteranodon, the trinacromerum, and the mosasaurus. Those last two are both marine reptiles, meaning that Nebraska used to be underwater—which the globe will show you, too.

A screenshot of Nebraska from Ian Webster's interactive globe.Dinosaurpictures.org

In addition to searching by city, you can also see what Earth looked like during a specific time period by choosing an option from the dropdown menu at the top. Choices range from 750 million years ago—the Cryogenian period, when glaciers abounded—to 0 million years ago, which is Earth as we know it today. Using a different dropdown menu on the right, you can view Earth during its many notable “firsts,” including “first land plants,” “first dinosaurs,” “first primates,” and more.

As CNN reports, the map was created by California-based paleontologist Ian Webster, who added to an existing model that mapped plate tectonics and used additional data from GPlates, another piece of plate tectonics software.

“It is meant to spark fascination and hopefully respect for the scientists that work every day to better understand our world and its past,” Webster told CNN. “It also contains fun surprises. For example: how the U.S. used to be split by a shallow sea, the Appalachians used to be very tall mountains comparable to the Himalayas, and that Florida used to be submerged.”

You can find other fun surprises by exploring the map yourself here. For the best experience, you'll want to access the site from a desktop computer or tablet versus a smartphone.

[h/t CNN]