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The Story Of A Piece of Stonehenge That Once Disappeared

A lost piece of one of Stonehenge's iconic standing stones has finally been returned.

The cylindrical stone was perforated in the giant Neolithic standing stone and then taken as a souvenir more than 60 years ago.

The rediscovery means that scientists can study the chemical composition of the largest stones at Stonehenge, to learn more about where they came from.

English Heritage, the cultural agency that oversees Stonehenge, said the piece was taken from a fallen "trilith", a structure formed by two giant vertical stone posts, covered by a third stone lintel, which was re-erected during restoration work in 1958 [5 strange theories about Stonehenge]

Archaeologists found cracks in one of the vertical stones and perforated them in three places so that the stone could be reinforced with steel bars. Repairs were covered with stone fragments.

One of the repaired "cores" of the repairs, a cylindrical piece of sandstone about 42 inches (108 centimeters) long and one inch (2.5 cm) wide, was taken by a worker at the Stonehenge site, said the agency.

That worker, Robert Phillips, kept the core as a precious memory for six decades, but returned it on the eve of his 90th birthday. (Now lives in retirement in the United States).

Scientists say the drilled core will now be chemically tested and compared to several sandstone sites in southern England, hoping to learn more about the origins of the larger stones at Stonehenge.

It is believed that the smaller "blue stones" were transported for more than 140 miles (230 kilometers) from the quarries of Wales to the site of Stonehenge in Salisbury Plain, in southwestern England.

But relatively little is known about the larger sandstone rocks, known as sarsen stones, said Brighton University geoscientist David Nash, who leads the project.

The rediscovered stone core would allow scientists to study the composition of the rock in the depths of the thorn stones, but without making new holes or cutting any of the standing stones at Stonehenge, he said.

That is something that today would be almost impossible, given the strict cultural protections that exist around Stonehenge, Nash told Live Science.

The concentric circles of standing stones at Stonehenge, as well as several nearby Neolithic monuments, make up one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world: it is believed that they were built about 5,000 years ago.

By: Preeti Narula