Missing Piece of Stonehenge Returned
A piece of one of the enormous sarsen stones at Stonehenge has been returned to the ancient monument, and may help to locate the stone's origins.
The prehistoric stone ‘core’ was removed during archaeological excavations in 1958 and its existence remained largely unknown for the next 60 years. The core will now join English Heritage’s collection of more than 500,000 artefacts and may help to uncover the source of the stones that form the instantly recognisable trilithons and outer circle of Stonehenge.
In 1958, archaeologists raised an entire fallen trilithon. During the works, cracks were found in one of the vertical stones and in order to reinforce it, cores were drilled through the stone and metal rods inserted. The repairs were masked by small plugs cut from sarsen fragments found during excavations and are very hard to see today.
The work was undertaken by a diamond cutting business called Van Moppes, a Basingstoke company. Three 32mm holes were drilled horizontally through the one metre thick stone. An annular drilling machine was used to bore out the holes, which resulted in three cores of approximately 25mm diameter being extracted. A watercolour illustration from the time shows the proceedings.
A Van Moppes employee, Robert Phillips, kept one of the stone cores and for a number of years, this unusual 108 cm long piece of Stonehenge took pride of place in his office. When Robert left the firm in 1976 and later emigrated to the USA, the core travelled with him, from Richmond, New York to Chicago, Illinois, to Ventura, California and finally Aventura, Florida.
However on the eve of his 90th birthday, Robert expressed his desire that this prehistoric fragment be returned to the care of English Heritage. Last year, Robert’s sons, Robin and Lewis, travelled to Stonehenge and presented it to English Heritage curator, Heather Sebire.
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