Researchers in the United Kingdom have finally solved a major piece of Stonehenge's enduring mystery: the place of origin for some of the ancient structure's most-famous rock formations.
The National Museum Wales and Leicester University have identified the source as Craig Rhos-y-felin, located more than 100 miles from the Stonehenge site. But this discovery, of course, just opens on to another mystery--namely, just how and why an ancient culture carved and transported the giant stones over such a great distance.
"Being able to provenance any archaeologically significant rock so precisely is remarkable," Dr. Rob Ixer of Leicester University told the BBC. "However, given continued perseverance, we are determined that we shall uncover the origins of most, if not all of the Stonehenge bluestones so allowing archaeologists to continue their speculations well into a third century."
This past year has offered a wealth of new research and discoveries at the Stonehenge site, including last month's announcement that the worshipers at the ancient monument had erected "sun worship" sites there.
Over the past nine months, the researchers compared mineral content and textural relationships of the rhyolite debitage stones found at Stonehenge and were finally able to pinpoint the location to within several meters of their source. Ninety-nine percent of the samples could be matched to the rocks found at Craig Rhos-y-felin, which differ from all others found in south Wales.
Further research should help the researchers eventually understand how the rocks made the long journey to Stonehenge sometime between 3000 and 1600 BC. "Many have asked the question over the years, how the stones got from Pembrokeshire to Stonehenge," said Dr. Richard Bevins, National Museum Wales. "Thanks to geological research, we now have a specific source for the rhyolite stones from which to work and an opportunity for archaeologists to answer the question that has been widely debated."
Some working theories speculate that the rocks were transported over water up the Bristol Channel and River Avon. However, recent efforts to recreate the voyage, including one in 2000 sponsored by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, have all ended in failure.
Below is a special episode of 'Who Knew?' about the Winter Solstice, a holiday that has been celebrated through most of human history. Ancient Romans called it Saturnalia, Hopi indians have Soyal, and Christmas, too, is influenced by the celestial calendar.
Other popular Yahoo! News stories: