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Missing piece of Britain’s ancient Stonehenge returned after 60 years

May 09, 2019

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LONDON: Archaeological excavations take place in Stonehenge in 1958 in this watercolour image obtained on Tuesday by English Heritage.—Reuters
LONDON: Archaeological excavations take place in Stonehenge in 1958 in this watercolour image obtained on Tuesday by English Heritage.—Reuters

LONDON: A piece of stone drilled from Stonehenge, a mysterious circle of ancient stones in southern England, has been returned to the site 60 years after being removed during archaeological excavations, English Heritage said on Wednesday.

The cylinder, which is 1.08 metres long and has a diameter of 25 millimetres, was taken from one of the monoliths in 1958 when the cracked stone was strengthened with metal rods.

Robert Phillips, an employee of the diamond cutting firm Van Moppes which carried out the work, kept the extracted stone core and later took it to the United States when he emigrated there, English Heritage said.

Last year, on the eve of his 90th birthday, Phillips asked that the fragment be returned to the care of English Heritage, a conservation charity which looks after the ancient stones.

“The last thing we ever expected was to get a call from someone in America telling us they had a piece of Stonehenge,” said Heather Sebire, English Heritage’s curator for Stonehenge.

English Heritage said the missing piece, incongruously pristine amid the weathered stone from where it came, could now help determine the origin of the stone.

“Studying the Stonehenge core’s ‘DNA’ could tell us more about where those enormous sarsen stones originated,” she said.

Radiocarbon dating shows that Stonehenge, a ring of about 4-metre-high standing stones in Wiltshire, southern England, was constructed 4,000-5,000 years ago.

Published in Dawn, May 9th, 2019