A few days ago, I was fascinated to learn of the Dandaleith Stone, a huge piece of Pictish decorated stone that was recently unearthed in Scotland. This discovery particularly interested me, because it apparently came to light after being struck by a plough, which implies that it wasn’t buried deep beneath the ground. Apparently, it had been lying in place for centuries in a ‘shallow grave’, so a fortunate chance discovery has led to this wonder being displayed for us all to see, marvel at and study.
My thoughts inevitably led to Stonehenge, a huge monument that has been despoiled over the millennia, while there’s a case that this gradual destruction began shortly after the Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD. We know that it was systematically ransacked centuries ago, so when we look at a reconstructed image of the monument as it might have looked upon completion, we can see that a great many sarsens and bluestones are physically missing from the site.
Around seven years ago, I presented a case that a missing ‘altar stone’ from Stonehenge, as described by Inigo Jones in the seventeenth century, now stands as two separate stones in the village of Berwick St James, although the convolutions of the historical account suggests that this altar stone may still be somewhere in London. Regardless of whether I’m right or wrong about the stones in Berwick St James, it stands to reason that a good number of other stones from Stonehenge still await discovery, while my informed guess is that they’ll be found in the Stonehenge landscape itself.
On balance, I think it’s unlikely that all the missing stones were smashed into dust, if only because of what we know of how incredibly tough sarsen is, so the chances are that they’re either buried in some shallow foundations of a more recent building, or else one or more may even be on display above ground, patiently waiting for the day when some literary or historical detective work will lead a geologist to examine them a declare that they were once part of the most mesmerising prehistoric monument on Earth.