Archaeologists hope first Stonehenge dig in 44 years will unravel mysteries

LONDON – Some of England’s most sacred soil was disturbed yesterday for the first time in more than four decades as archaeologists worked to solve the enduring riddle of Stonehenge: When and why was the prehistoric monument built?

The excavation project, set to last until April 11, is designed to unearth materials that can be used to establish a firm date for when the first mysterious set of bluestones was put in place at Stonehenge, one of Britain’s best known and least understood landmarks.

The World Heritage site, a favorite with visitors the world over, has become popular with Druids, neo-Pagans and New Agers who attach mystical significance to the strangely shaped circle of stones, but there remains great debate about the actual purpose of the structure.

The dig will be led by Timothy Darvill, a leading Stonehenge scholar from Bournemouth University, and Geoffrey Wainwright, president of the Society of Antiquaries. Both experts have worked to pinpoint the site in the Preseli Mountains in south Wales where the bluestones – the earliest of the large rocks erected at the site – came from. They will be able to compare the samples found in Wales to those at Stonehenge on the Salisbury Plain.