After years of countless studies on the origin of this Neolithic monument from England, the famous Stonehenge still hides many secrets. Scientists have just uncovered some of the secrets kept in the ashes of the people buried close to the monument.
A great part of the ancient remains were burned, leaving behind ashes, some bone fragments and basically a dead-end for archaeologists.
But Christophe Snoeck who was a University of Oxford graduate student when he came up with the theory, thought that the ones that could have helped built the monument lived in western Britain. The theory was not far-fetched: Stonehenge bluestone came from Wales. But the scientist found a lot more information, which he added in his study recently published in Scientific Reports.
Traces of Inorganic Matter Deliver New Information
It appears that the pre-historic people who could have helped carry the stones were the ones cremated before being buried close to the monument. Some of the wayfarers might have settled near the monument to live the rest of their lives, while others might have died while building it.
In their lab, Snoeck found in the bone fragment strontium which resists to cremation. So the signature of the element was isolated from contamination, meaning that the scientists could find out more about those bones, explains Snoeck:
“All the inorganic matter survives, and there is a huge among of information contained in the inorganic fraction of human remains,” adding that he can analize traces of strontium and tell us “the origin of the food we eat, especially the plants.”
Because plants can absorb strontium from the soil and then this element gets inside our bones, it can then say where plants grew. This is how the researchers found out where the 25 people buried near Stonehenge lived back in 3000 BC.
Help From Preseli Mountains – West Wales
They found out after analyzing fragments of skulls that ten of the people lived more than the last 10 years of their lives in a different place.
Comparing the discovery with previous research that said the Stonehenge bluestone was brought from Wales, the ten people’s strontium profile even matched the flora of that region.
John Pouncett, who is a Spatial Technology Officer (Oxford’s School of Archaeology) and the co-author of the study concludes that their findings “suggest that people from the Preseli Mountains in West Wales not only supplied the bluestones used to build the stone circle, but moved with the stones and were buried there too.”
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere