Marks left by Stonehenge Builders Revealed by YAT Archaeologists

Marks left by Stonehenge Builders Revealed by YAT Archaeologists

One of the country’s most famous and most studied historic landmarks has undergone the first ever comprehensive digital examination of the surface of its stone, by York Archaeological Trust archaeologists. Unparalleled detailed analysis of the first comprehensive laser survey of Stonehenge has been carried out by YAT’s Sheffield-based ArcHeritage.  Archaeologists have developed a brand new technique and undertaken digital analysis for English Heritage at Stonehenge, revealing monumental evidence which changes previous interpretations of the stonework and the site.

Marcus Abbott at StonehengeSays Marcus Abbott, ArcHeritage’s Head of Geomatics and Visualisation, “The real stones have several texture and surface variations which camouflage subtle features that cannot be found by the naked eye.  With digital technology we are able to strip off the texture and apply new surface texture which enhances the archaeological features. Combined with using different ‘virtual’ lighting set ups and angles we could then start to see surface detail on the stones.  We created new technology called ‘Luminance Lensing’ and combined it with photogrammetric data which has taken our analysis to a completely different level.”

This study tells us many new things about Stonehenge and its creators.  The method tells us how Stonehenge was positioned to create visual impact for people to walk towards the monument from the valley below, designed to be approached from the north east.  It also provides an indication that the stones located in the centre of the monument might have existed before the outer ring of stones was created.

It has also importantly revealed 72 new prehistoric axe carvings, in addition to the 44 carvings already known at Stonehenge before this research.   This find has doubled the number found on site and makes it the largest collection of these axe head prehistoric carvings found in the UK.

Carvings on the stonesThe new analysis also shows important evidence that Stonehenge was complete which is conflicting to existing theories.  Says Marcus, “There has been much debate surrounding whether Stonehenge was left unfinished, however, this new evidence points to the contrary.  With our new technology and the detail it shows we can see that parts have actually been chipped away and stolen.  This micro examination allows us also to see fragments and breakages where pieces have been removed.”

The technique developed by ArcHeritage has major potential to impact on the survey techniques used in the heritage sector.  At Stonehenge, the use of digital technology has uncovered more than is humanly possible and has greatly helped archaeologists further understanding of the ancient World heritage site.

The analysis carried out by ArcHeritage is part of a much wider research project by English Heritage which started in 2007.

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