Stonehenge quarries found 140 miles away in Wales

BU staff and students led by Prof. Kate Welham are part of the team of archaeologists and geologists that have found two of the Welsh quarries that provided stones for Stonehenge.

The very large standing stones at Stonehenge are of ‘sarsen’, a local sandstone, but the smaller ones – known as ‘bluestones’ – come from the Preseli hills in Pembrokeshire. Geologists have known since the 1920s that the bluestones were brought to Stonehenge from somewhere in the distant Preseli Hills, but only now has there been collaboration with archaeologists to locate and excavate the actual quarries from which they came.

Radiocarbon-dating of burnt hazelnuts and charcoal from the quarry-workers’ camp fires reveals that there were several occurrences of megalith-quarrying at these outcrops. Stonehenge was built during the Neolithic period, between 4,000 to 5,000 years ago. Both of the quarries in Preseli were exploited in the Neolithic, and one of them, Craig Rhos-y-felin, was also quarried in the Bronze Age, around 4,000 years ago.

The project’s results are published this month in the journal Antiquity and in the January issues of British Archaeology and Current Archaeology. It also features in a new book published this month by the Council for British Archaeology, Stonehenge: making sense of a prehistoric mystery. Further excavations are planned for 2016.

The project is led by Prof. Mike Parker Pearson (UCL), Dr. Richard Bevins (National Museum of Wales), Dr. Rob Ixer (UCL and University of Leicester), Dr. Josh Pollard (University of Southampton), Prof. Colin Richards (University of Manchester), Mr. Duncan Schlee (Dyfed Archaeological Trust), and Prof. Kate Welham (Bournemouth University). It has been funded by the National Geographic Society, the Society of Antiquaries of London, the Royal Archaeological Institute, the National Museum of Wales and the Cambrian Archaeological Association, with support from the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.


Stonehenge (Copyright Adam Stanford/AerialCamLtd)

Stonehenge (Copyright Adam Stanford/Aerial-Cam Ltd)

The bluestone quarry at Craig Rhos-y-felin, Wales. (Copyright Aerial-Cam Ltd)

The bluestone quarry at Craig Rhos-y-felin, Wales. (Copyright Aerial-Cam Ltd)