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3D scan of Stonehenge reveals hidden ax-head carvings

Modern technology battles the force of erosion to unveil Bronze Age carvings on the surface of Stonehenge.

Stonehenge ax-head carvings revealed
So, did Merlin use an ax?
Bentley Systems/York Archaeological Trust

Stonehenge has long been one of the world's most mysterious monuments. The massive rock circle has given up a few of its secrets to a digital scanning project led by historical-preservation organization English Heritage with an assist from the York Archaeological Trust. The 3D laser-scanning data collected last year has unveiled 72 hidden ax-head carvings in the surface of the stone.

Stonehenge was given a complete 3D-scanning treatment, generating 850 gigabytes of data. Archeologists put software from Bentley Systems to work to analyze the data. The resulting data crunching showed 72 carvings depicting Bronze Age tools that had been hiding from the naked eye for thousands of years. Almost all show ax heads, but one is likely a dagger.

The ax-shaped carvings show a certain obsession with the tool shape. All of the ax blades face upward. Some Stonehenge carvings had already been located through visual inspections, but these new carvings reveal a treasure trove of ancient art.

A report from English Heritage (PDF) suggests the carvings may be interpreted as offerings to the dead.

Information gathered from the scanning project will be used in displays at a new Stonehenge visitors center set to open this year. The project has also helped archeologists document graffiti and erosion patterns on the monument. It did not, however, unveil any evidence of Merlin's presence. Sorry, King Arthur fans.

(Via GraphicSpeak)