Can radiocarbon dating be used on stone

Archaeologists have pinpointed the construction of Stonehenge to 2300BC - a key step to discovering how and why the mysterious edifice was built.

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Others have argued that the monument was a shrine to worship ancestors, or a calendar to mark the solstices.

A documentary following the progress of the recent dig has been recorded by the BBC Timewatch series. Date demand For centuries, archaeologists have marvelled at the construction of Stonehenge, which lies on Salisbury Plain, Wiltshire.

Mineral analysis indicates that the original circle of bluestones was transported to the plain from a site 240km (150 miles) away, in the Preseli hills, South Wales.

This extraordinary feat suggests the stones were thought to harbour great powers.

Professors Darvill and Wainwright believe that Stonehenge was a centre of healing - a "Neolithic Lourdes", to which the sick and injured travelled from far and wide, to be healed by the powers of the bluestones.

They note that "an abnormal number" of the corpses found in tombs nearby Stonehenge display signs of serious physical injury and disease.

And analysis of teeth recovered from graves show that "around half" of the corpses were from people who were "not native to the Stonehenge area".

"Stonehenge would attract not only people who were unwell, but people who were capable of [healing] them," said Professor Darvill, of Bournemouth University.

"Therefore, in a sense, Stonehenge becomes 'the A & E' of southern England." Modern techniques But without a reliable carbon date for the construction of Stonehenge, it has been difficult to establish this, or any other, theory.

Until now, the consensus view for the date of the first stone circle was anywhere between 2600BC and 2400BC.

To cement the date once and for all, Professors Darvill and Wainwright were granted permission by English Heritage to excavate a patch of earth just 2.5m x 3.5m, in between the two circles of giant sarsen stones.

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