It’s generally accepted by experts that the bluestones which were used to build part of Stonehenge were quarried in Wales and hauled to Wiltshire. One of those experts has been pushing the theory that those stones actually stood once before – in Wales – before being disassembled and transported to Wiltshire. Now, a new study adds more evidence to support that theory, suggesting they were a mini-Stonehenge that stood in Wales for centuries. What happened? Was it stolen? A prefab monument built to be moved? A builder’s model that the Stonehenge people bought for a reduced price? Does the fact that Stonehenge may be secondhand take away from its significance?
“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.”
University College London archaeologist Michael Parker Pearson thinks this latest study, published in the journal Antiquity and co-authored by Pearson, is the strongest link yet between Waun Mawn in in the Preseli Hills of Pembrokeshire in southeastern Wales and Stonehenge. In particular, new excavations in 2018 uncovered six stoneholes which, added to the four surviving standing stones, are in the right position to have been part of a circle of 30–50 stones. Charcoal and sediments in the stoneholes date the circle to being erected around 3400 BCE. The dating also shows activity around the circle in Waun Mawn for 400 years. And then … everyone and everything – including most of the bluestones – disappeared.
3000 BCE … why does that date sound familiar?
“Radiocarbon and OSL dating of Waun Mawn indicate construction c. 3000 BC, shortly before the initial construction of Stonehenge.”
The authors found indications of construction at Waun Mawn around 3000 BCE – construction that was actually de-construction of as many bluestones as the people could tear down and carry. Not long after that, construction began at Stonehenge. Are those occurrences a strong enough link? University of Southampton archaeologist Joshua Pollard, one of the co-authors, adds that human and animal remains found at Stonehenge have chemical signatures suggesting they came from the Welsh coast, and there are other signs of regular contact between them. But why?
“People and ideas and objects were moving over long distances, and the movement clearly had to do with the way society expressed power. Uprooting stones is a classic example.”
Alison Sheridan, a curator emerita at the National Museum of Scotland but not part of the study, suggests to Science Magazine that she sees this not so much as the people evacuating southwest Wales as but as invading Salisbury Plain, dragging their favorite monument with them to be erected as a memory of home, a place of congregation and a sign of power. Pearson agrees that the stones were probably brought as “an act of unification” between past and present.
Does this detract from the significance of Stonehenge, especially to people today? Not really. It was still a sacred place no matter where it was located, and other people came with more stones and expanded it. One thing this new study doesn’t address – how did they move the heavy bluestones all that distance?
Another reason not to mess with the Welsh.