Stonehenge Yields New Secrets in 3-D Scan

Image credit: English Heritage

Stonehenge, one of world's the most famous ancient landmarks, has been studied for centuries. Now, new evidence provides insight into the construction of the famous stone circle.

Using 3-D laser scanning technology, the British company English Heritage conducted an extensive analysis of Stonehenge, revealing that more effort was put into certain parts of the circle than others.

"They were looking at each stone and discovered layers of tool marks found in specific areas," said Marcus Abbott, head of Geomatics and Visualization at ArcHeritage.

As the researchers examined them, they found they were looking at ancient, faded art.

"They began to discover prehistoric carvings, previously unknown carvings from the Bronze Age, mostly on four stones within the actual monument. These panels of artwork on the stones were deliberately placed," Abbott said. "It shows particular significance that they appear facing east towards an area of burial mounds and then also appear to be facing the center of Stonehenge."

The new evidence suggests that more effort was put into creating this part of Stonehenge because most ancient people would have approached the landmark from that side.

"The significance of the working reveals that Stonehenge was much better finished on one side than the other. They were both completed but they chose better materials, which suggests the majority of people would have seen it from one side."

Researchers have long suspected this, but the new research has finally confirmed the idea.

"This is very significant because previously there was no physical evidence for this," Abbott said. "Now we actually have scientific data to back up those theories."

The shape and workings of the stones give insight into the intent of the landmark's creators.

"The study also shows that the techniques and amounts of labour used vary from stone to stone. These variations provide almost definite proof that it was the intent of Stonehenge's builders to align the monument with the two solstices along the NE/SW [Northeast/Southwest] axis," English Heritage said in a statement. "The sides of the stones that flanked the solstice axis were found to have been most carefully worked to form very straight and narrow rectangular slots."

In contrast, the other stones have visibly more natural outlines.

"This strongly suggests that special effort was made to dress those that flank the NE/SW axis to allow more dramatic and obvious passage of sunlight through the stone circle on midsummer and midwinter solstices."