The question of Stonehenge’s origin has baffled the public imagination and scientists worldwide for more than a century.
Despite many years of archaeological research, very little is known about who erected stone formation and for what purpose.
But the scientific community could be on the verge of a major breakthrough thanks to an international collaboration with a group of scientists from the University of Oxford.
A new study published in the journal Scientific Reports looked at a number of ancient remains buried at the historic site more some 5,000 to 4,400 years ago.
The study gave a glimpse into the origin of Stonehenge, suggesting the standing stones were transported more than 124 miles (200 km) from a quarry in West Wales to the Stonehenge site in Wessex.
For year scientists have focused on why Stonehenge was built but never quite looked at who exactly built the stone monument and who was buried at it.
A number of cremated and buried remains are scattered across the Stonehenge site, perhaps some of the poor denizens whose hard work built the structure.
The new investigation examined a total of 25 skulls and bones originally excavated form 56 Stonehenge pits in the 1920s.
Strontium isotope analysis found at least 10 out of the 25 buried people did not spend the last decade of their life near Stonehenge.
Instead, the bodies were traced to a region in West Wales – the source of Stonehenge’s bluestone rock.
Lead author Christophe Snoeck said: “The recent discovery that some biological information survives the high temperatures reached during cremation offered us the exciting possibility to finally study the origin of those buried at Stonehenge.”
For some time now, archaeologists have known of the Welsh connection to Stonehenge, but the study shows the people buried at the monument were moving between Wessex and Wales in the Late Neolithic.
John Pouncett, Oxford School of Archaeology, said: ”The powerful combination of stable isotopes and spatial technology gives us a new insight into the communities who built Stonehenge.
“The cremated remains from the enigmatic Aubrey Holes and updated mapping of the biosphere suggest that people from the Preseli Mountains not only supplied the bluestones used to build the stone circle, but moved with the stones and were buried there too.”
The archaeological data collected during the course of the research suggest at least some of the “non-local” individuals buried at Stonehenge were cremated away from the site and brought back for burial.
The study suggests strong links existed between the ancient societies scattered across the South of England and Wales despite the distance in between.
Stonehenge is understood to have been a place of ceremonial burial for at least 500 years as early as 5,000 years ago.
The standing stones were erected in various stages but the most iconic central circle of Stonehenge did not appear until 2,500 BC.
The earliest known structure on the Wessex chalk mound was built in the Mesolithic period, between 8,500 BC and 7,000 BC, but there is no direct link between it and Stonehenge.
Today, Stonehenge is a recognised World Heritage Site protected by English Heritage.