Stonehenge has long been one of the mysteries of the world. The Neolithic ring of stone slabs in Wiltshire, England has been a source of mystery for scientists for centuries. While many seem to agree that the site was probably a ritualistic burial ground, it still remains a mystery as to how they did it. When you consider that they didn't have access to modern tools or even the wheel, it puts it all into perspective as to how hard it might have been.
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Stonehenge was built 5,000 years ago and took nearly 1,500 years to complete, science has found. The stone weigh around 25 tons on average and were about 30 feet long. Evidence has found that the rhyolite bluestones that were used in construction came from Wales, which is about 140 miles away. The stones were probably chosen because they form like natural pillars underground, making it easy for them to be cut.
That is pretty much all researchers and scientists can agree on, and crazy hypotheses have been popping up for years as to how the ancient people moved these rocks by hand. The result is almost always an argument where someone brings up aliens.
But some researchers, including Barney Harris from the University College of London in the UK, hoped to see if it was as hard as many people think it was. They assembled a team of people to see how many it would take to move one of the 25-ton stones into position.
They used stones that were 1 ton, which is half the size of Stonehenge's smallest stone. The initial thought was that 15 people would move the stone, but 50 people would be needed to actually lift it.
However, they only needed 10 people to move the stone 10 feet every 5 seconds, which equals out to about 1 mile per hour.
Harris believes this proved that a team of about 20 people could move the smallest chunk of Stonehenge easily. There wasn't a follow-up to see how many people it would take to actually lift one of the stones into the air.
"We were expecting to need at least 15 people to move the stone so to find we could do it with 10 was quite interesting," Harris told The Telegraph’s Sarah Knapton. "It’s true that we did the experiment on flat ground, and there would have been steep slopes to navigate when going through the Preseli Mountains, but actually, this kind of system works well on rough terrain."
If you are imagining a bunch of people just lifting from their knees, that is not exactly what happened. They used a sledge system that placed logs on the ground and pulled the stones over them. The stones had logs ties to the bottom. This was so that there would be less friction on the stone, making it easier and faster to move.
Here's a video of the team in action:
"We know that pre-industrialised societies like the Maram Naga in India still use this kind of sledge to construct huge stone monuments," Harris told The Telegraph. "And similar 'y-shaped' sleighs have been found dating back to 2000 BC in Japan which we know were used to move megaliths."
Their next mission is to figure out how many people would have been needed to move the stones from Wales. It seems like it is a possibility for humans to do it without extraterrestrial intervention, however. Especially if, like many researchers think, several communities came together to assemble the site.
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The experiment was conducted as part of University College London’s Festival of Culture.