ANCIENT DNA has provided scientists with a much better understanding of where the people who built Stonehenge came from.
A study has found that ancestors of the Stonehenge builders travelled west across the Mediterranean from modern day Turkey before they arrived in Britain.
London-based researchers extracted DNA from Neolithic human remains found in Britain and compared it with DNA from European remains from the same time period.
Ancestors of the Stonehenge architects are thought to have reached Britain in 4,000BC, almost 1,000 years before Stonehenge was built.
There is a lot of evidence to indicate that ancient people travelled from Anatolia, which is modern day Turkey, and across Europe in 6,000BC.
As these people travelled, they spread the practice of farming with them throughout the continent.
Some of the ancient farmers are said to have travelled through Europe along the river Danube but other groups travelled west across Europe by walking along the coastline or island hopping on boats.
These prehistoric people are thought to have travelled from modern Turkey to modern Spain and then north through France before reaching the UK.
The recent DNA research shows that ancient Neolithic Britons were largely related to those people who took the walking and island hopping route.
Fortunately for Stonehenge fans, farming wasn't the only thing introduced by the Neolithic travellers.
They also spread the practice of building monuments using large stones known as megaliths.
Stonehenge in Salisbury was part of this megalith tradition.
What is Stonehenge?
What you need to know about Britain’s most mysterious monument
- Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument in Wiltshire
- It's a ring of standing stones that measure around 13 feet high and seven feet wide
- Each stone weighs roughly 25 tons
- Experts say that the monument was constructed between 3000 and 2000 BC
- In 1882, it was legally protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument
- And in 1986, the site and surroundings became a UNESCO World Heritage Site
- Stonehenge itself is owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage
- But the land around Stonehenge is owned by the National Trust
- Part of what makes Stonehenge so mysterious is that it was produced by a culture with no written records
- Scientists regularly debate over how and why Stonehenge was built, and what it was used for
- One theory suggests Stonehenge was a sacred burial site
- Another proposes that it was used for celestial and astronomical alignments
- And some think it was an ancient place of healing
- It used to be believed that it was created as a Druid temple
- But we now know that Stonehenge predated the Druids by around 2000 years
Before these ancient farmers arrived, Europe was populated with small groups of hunters and gatherers.
DNA suggests that the hunter-gatherers didn't mix with the new European arrivals.
The British groups were eventually completely replaced by the new farming arrivals apart from one small group in Scotland.
The study also analysed DNA from these hunter-gatherers including the skeletal remains of the Cheddar Man, whose DNA has been dated to 7,100BC.
DNA analysis suggests that the Cheddar Man had dark skin and blue eyes whereas the Neolithic farmers had lighter skin with brown eyes and dark brown or black hair.
All this research has been published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution.
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What do you think of these new Stonehenge findings? Let us know in the comments…
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