Three pieces of broken deer antlers that were excavated 80 years ago at Stonehenge may tell scientists the date when the outer circle of gigantic stones was created.

Building Stonehenge took thousands of years. The outer Sarsen circle, made of huge stones the size of buses, is believed to have been created centuries after the inner circle of smaller bluestones was built.

Antler picks were used to dig holes for the stones. Because the antlers were once living matter, they can be tested by carbon dating. The exact site where they were excavated was recorded, at the base of two of the giant stones.

The antlers were excavated from the site in the 1920s by William Hawley, with funds from the Society of Antiquaries, one of the oldest archaeological societies in the world. Carbon 14 testing did not exist in those days, so their only importance was as evidence of the simple tools with which prehistoric man achieved such spectacular effects.

In recent years, scientists have been searching for datable material from Stonehenge that could tell them when it was built. All this time Hawley?s pieces of antler were in a glass case at the society labeled ?Stonehenge? in faded black ink.

Geoff Wainwright, former chief archaeologist at English Heritage, predicts they will show a date of around 2400 BC and says, ?This is an opportunity to answer a question archaeologists have been asking for centuries.?

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