How many people did it take to build Stonehenge? Volunteers drag ONE-TON concrete slab to recreate Stone Age effort

  • Volunteers dragged the a concrete slab using neolithic-style wooden sled
  • The slab weighed half as much as the smallest blue stone at Stonehenge
  • A video appears to show 20 people pulling the slab along logs with ropes
  • Organisers looked to ancient wooden sleds from Asia and non-industrialised cultures for monument building as inspiration

Towering above the grassy Salisbury Plain, its eerie rock monoliths are steeped in myth and magical stories, yet despite decades of research the original purpose of Stonehenge remains a mystery.

But UK researchers have tried to answer one of the many logistical questions surrounding the beginnings of the monument - how many people it took to build it.   

In an effort to to solve the quandary, UK researchers recruited a group of volunteers to recreate the Neolithic building efforts, by dragging a one-tonne slab of concrete using logs and rope.

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Volunteers, many of whom were undergraduate archaeology students, took part in an attempt using only people power to move a one tonne block strapped to a neolithic-style wooden sledge. The effort, organised by University College London,  was in order to work out how many people it might have taken to build Stonehenge

Volunteers, many of whom were undergraduate archaeology students, took part in an attempt using only people power to move a one tonne block strapped to a neolithic-style wooden sledge. The effort, organised by University College London,  was in order to work out how many people it might have taken to build Stonehenge

Barney Harris, a researcher at University College London's Institute of Archaeology who led the project, believed it would have taken 40 to 50 people to shift the stones to the neolithic site.

The experiment took place in London's Gordon Square earlier today, and saw two lines of volunteers - mostly UCL archaeology students - lining up to heave the slap over a designed sled.

In order to shift the stones, the team drew on inspiration from preserved prehistoric Asian sledges and techniques which non-industrialised societies use to build stone monuments today.

The one tonne block  strapped to a neolithic-style wooden sledge (pictured) during a rest  in the attempt using only people power to move the block

The one tonne block strapped to a neolithic-style wooden sledge (pictured) during a rest in the attempt using only people power to move the block

But the project was a far scaled down version of the real thing, with the hefty slab weighing just half as much as the lightest blue stone used in the construction of Stonehenge. 

With ropes laced through holes in the concrete coffin-shaped slab, a video shows approximately 20 volunteers heaving at a call.

Their manual efforts pay off as the slab rolls across the logs, demonstrating how the Neolithic construction force behind the real monument would have shifted the stones thousands of years ago.

WHAT WAS THE PURPOSE OF STONEHENGE? 

It is not known exactly why - or how - Stonehenge was built.

Experts have suggested it was a temple, parliament and a graveyard.

Some people think the stones have healing powers, while others think they have musical properties when struck with a stone. They could have acted as a giant musical instrument to call ancient people to the monument.

What is clear, is that the stones were aligned with phases of the sun.

People were buried there and skeletal evidence shows that people travelled hundreds of miles to visit Stonehenge – for whatever reason.

Recently, experts said the route was a busy one and that Stonehenge could be viewed differently from different positions.

It seems that instead of being a complete barrier, the Curcus acted as a gateway to guide visitors to the stone circle.

Archaeologists continue to debate the source of the stone used to build Stonehenge (pictured) and how it made the journey from Wales to Wiltshire more than 5,000 years ago

Archaeologists continue to debate the source of the stone used to build Stonehenge (pictured) and how it made the journey from Wales to Wiltshire more than 5,000 years ago

However, while the UCL group successfully demonstrated how the concrete slab could be moved a few metres, the efforts are truly dwarfed by the scales involved in building Stonehenge.

Archaeologists believe the stones were dragged more than 140 miles (225km) from prehistoric quarries in the Preseli hills in Wales to their final resting place in Salisbury.

But despite gleaning this knowledge from the stones and surrounding site, it is hard to imagine the scale of of the undertaking.

The part experiment, part experience Monday was an investigation of the technology used to move large stones to build prehistoric monuments such as Stonehenge

The part experiment, part experience Monday was an investigation of the technology used to move large stones to build prehistoric monuments such as Stonehenge

The manual efforts of the volunteers pay off as the slab rolls across the logs, demonstrating how the neolithic construction force would have shifted the stones

The manual efforts of the volunteers pay off as the slab rolls across the logs, demonstrating how the neolithic construction force would have shifted the stones

Researchers estimating the time taken to construct the monument believe it likely took in excess of 10 million combined hours of labour - a huge undertaking.

The construction is thought to have been completed more than 5,000 years ago, finishing in around 3,100BC. 

While today's effort may not solve all of the mysteries surround the Neolithic monument, the volunteers were able to bring a part of British pre-history back to life in the heart of London.

THEORY ROCKS WERE USED ORIGINALLY FOR ANOTHER MONUMENT AND TRANSPORTED FROM PEMBROKESHIRE BY ANCIENT PEOPLE 

A team of archaeologists and geologists, led by academics from UCL, has claimed Stonehenge was originally built in Pembrokeshire, hundreds of years before the monument was taken down and rebuilt in its current location.

They said they have discovered two prehistoric quarries in the county, 140 miles (225km) away from Stonehenge, which appear to be the origin of the bluestones used to build the monument, with carbon dating suggesting the stones were dug out 500 years before the famous monument was erected in Wiltshire.

A team from UCL claims the giant blue stones used to make the monument were transported 140 miles (225km) from Pembrokeshire to Salisbury Plain in around 2900 BC, but the conflicting study said debris used to link the sites was caused by glaciers

A team from UCL claims the giant blue stones used to make the monument were transported 140 miles (225km) from Pembrokeshire to Salisbury Plain in around 2900 BC, but the conflicting study said debris used to link the sites was caused by glaciers

They said a series of recesses in the rocky outcrops of Carn Goedog and Craig Rhos-y-felin, in Pembrokeshire, match Stonehenge's bluestones in size and shape.

And that they found similar stones that the prehistoric builders extracted, but left behind, and 'a loading bay' from where the huge stones could be dragged away.

Professor Mike Parker Pearson of UCL, the director of the project, said: 'We have dates of around 3400 BC for Craig Rhos-y-felin and 3200 BC for Carn Goedog, which is intriguing because the bluestones didn't get put up at Stonehenge until around 2900 BC.

One of the quarry's excavators compared it to a 'Neolithic Ikea' because of the way the raw materials were used elsewhere. An aerial view of the site is shown

One of the quarry's excavators compared it to a 'Neolithic Ikea' because of the way the raw materials were used elsewhere. An aerial view of the site is shown

The stone is formed into 'pillars' which would have made it easy for ancient men to chisel them off

The stone is formed into 'pillars' which would have made it easy for ancient men to chisel them off

'It could have taken those Neolithic stone-draggers nearly 500 years to get them to Stonehenge, but that's pretty improbable in my view.

'It's more likely that the stones were first used in a local monument, somewhere near the quarries, that was then dismantled and dragged off to Wiltshire.'

He said it was a 'possibility' that the evidence could mean Stonehenge is older than previously thought.

But he added: 'We think it's more likely that they were building their own monument, that somewhere near the quarries there is the first Stonehenge and that what we're seeing at Stonehenge is a second-hand monument.'

The research was published in the journal Antiquity alongside a book by the Council for British Archaeology, titled Stonehenge: Making Sense of a Prehistoric Mystery.

There is also the possibility that the stones were taken to Salisbury Plain around 3200 BC and that the giant sarsens in the outer ring, which come from within 20 miles of the site, were added much later. 

The function of Stonehenge remains a long-standing mystery, although it is believed to have something to do with religious ceremonies revolving around the solstice.

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