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AKIPRESS.COM - Researchers have shown that cremated humans at Stonehenge were from the same region of Wales as the stones used in construction.
The key question was to understand the geographic origin of the people buried at Stonehenge.
The key innovation was finding that high temperatures of cremation can crystallise a skull, locking in the chemical signal of its origin.
The findings have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.
The first long-term residents of Stonehenge, along with the first stones, arrived about 5,000 years ago.
Stonehenge, one of the most impressive prehistoric megalithic monuments on Earth, is a World Heritage site known for its alignment with the movements of the sun. Thousands of people travel there each year to mark the solstices in summer and winter.
However, "despite over a century of intense study of Stonehenge, we still know very little about the individuals buried at the site," the study said.
To rectify this, researchers analyzed skull bones from 25 individuals buried at the monument to better understand the lives of the people there. While 15 of the people were local to the Stonehenge region, the other 10 probably spent at least the last few years of their lives in present-day Wales, study authors say.
The cremated remains suggest that people not only supplied the stones used to build the stone circle, but also "moved with the stones and were buried there too," the study said.
Study lead author Rick Schulting of the University of Oxford said that "the really remarkable thing about our study is the ability of new developments in archaeological science to extract so much new information from such small and unpromising fragments of burnt bone."