BOURNEMOUTH University students and staff have been involved in collaborative research which uncovered a ‘secret circle’ that sheds light on the origins of the bluestones at Stonehenge.

Archaeologists have unearthed Britain’s third largest stone circle in the Preseli Hills of Wales that they believe was dismantled and rebuilt at Stonehenge.

The work sheds further light on the origins of the world-renown site, which BU experts have been working on for more than a decade.

The research uncovered the original stone circle location close to the quarry site identified by the same team as the source of the Stonehenge bluestones.

Bournemouth University’s Professor Kate Welham has worked as a part of the collaborative research team, alongside a number of BU archaeology students.

Prof Welham, of Archaeological Sciences department at Bournemouth University, said: “Our students have been critical to the exploration of the landscape on an internationally significant project and I couldn’t be prouder of the contribution they have made, as they were able to work on this site as a part of their studies.”

The team took charge of the geophysics of the project, which involved them surveying the sites and working onsite alongside international researchers.

The dismantled stone circle in west Wales is believed to have been moved 175 miles to Salisbury Plain and rebuilt as Stonehenge. While the team are helping to advance knowledge on the origins of the famous site, many questions still remain about how and why the stones were moved.

The original location of Stonehenge’s bluestones has long been known to come from the Preseli Hills of Wales and are thought to have been the first to be erected at Stonehenge 5,000 years ago, centuries before the larger sarsen stones were brought to the monument, from a much closer quarry site around 15 miles from their final location on Salisbury Plain.

The research team undertook extensive research at the Welsh Hills location, as well as at Stonehenge, to conclude that both monuments were aligned to the midsummer solstice sunrise, that one of the bluestones at Stonehenge has an unusual cross-section which matches one of the holes left at the Welsh Hills location of Waun Mawn, and that the original location ditch had a diameter of 110 metres, which matches the ditch that encloses Stonehenge.

Prof Welham added: “We have always suspected that the stones had an important part to play in the lives of people in West Wales, and to discover that these stones were part of an existing monument in that area underlines this further.

"This continues to be a site of intrigue that gives excellent insight into the past, and we now have some fascinating questions to ask to find out more about the relationships between this site and Stonehenge itself.”

The multidisciplinary research team was led by researchers at University College London, with academics and students joining from 11 other organisations, including BU.

The research has been published in the journal Antiquity and the finds will be explored in a one off BBC television special, on BBC Two Friday, February 12, at 9pm, in a programme led by Bournemouth University honorary doctorate recipient Professor Alice Roberts.