Stonehenge core sample shows monument was largely quarried only 15 miles from site

Photo: English Heritage, handout

The mineral origin of Stonehenge is an ancient mystery now solved, thanks to the solving of more contemporary one: who absconded with core samples from a crumbling standing stone, drilled out in 1959 so it could be reinforced with rebar?

One of the three cores was recently returned by an 89-year-old worker from the diamond company that performed the work six decades ago, and tests show that it came from a quarry only 15 miles north of the monument.

Researchers first carried out x-ray fluorescence testing of all the remaining sarsens at Stonehenge which revealed most shared a similar chemistry and came from the same area.

They then analysed sarsen outcrops from Norfolk to Devon and compared their chemical composition with the chemistry of a piece of the returned core.

English Heritage said the opportunity to do a destructive test on the core proved "decisive", as it showed its composition matched the chemistry of sarsens at West Woods, just south of Marlborough.

Stonehenge's smaller bluestones were already proven to be from a quarry in Wales. Their 142-mile journey probably involved a leg by boat, a logistical feat that would have been much more challenging for the larger cuts.