March 10, 2011
Stonehenge Being Scanned With Lasers
Modern laser scanning is being implemented to study Stonehenge and to search for hidden clues about how and why the ancient wonder was built.
Researchers said they are surveying all visible sides of the standing and fallen stones. Some ancient carvings have been found in previous studies, including a famous Neolithic "dagger." The work is expected to be completed by the end of March.
"The surfaces of the stones of Stonehenge hold fascinating clues to the past," English Heritage archaeologist Dave Batchelor, told BBC News.
The team is looking for ancient "rock art," but also for more modern carvings, in a comprehensive study of the site.
Sir Christopher Wren is believed to be one of many who left their mark at the site. Wren is the architect who designed London's St. Paul's Cathedral. His family had a home nearby the site, where he is known to have spent time, adding credibility to the claim of finding the name "Wren" in the stones.
The new research is the most accurate digital model to date for the world famous monument, considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World. The survey is measuring details and irregularities in the stone surfaces to a resolution of 0.5 mm -- or 1/100 of an inch.
A previous survey in 1993 was photographic only, and measured to an accuracy of only 2cm -- three-quarters of an inch.
"This new survey will capture a lot more information on the subtleties of the monument and its surrounding landscape," Paul Bryan, head of geospatial surveys at English Heritage, told the British news agency.
Laser scanning is also being used to map the earthworks immediately around the stone circle, and the surrounding area, as part of a wider project.
English Heritage proposed a new $40 million visitor center at Stonehenge. It also wants to close parts of the A344 roadway, which runs just yards away from the site. Funding for the project was withdrawn last year, but the Heritage Lottery Fund has promised $16 million. English Heritage is also seeking additional funding and is confident it can raise the monies needed.
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