Missing part of Stonehenge returned 60 years on

 
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Stonehenge in 1958Image copyright Historic England
Image caption The stone samples were removed during archaeological work in 1958

A missing piece of Stonehenge has been returned to the site 60 years after it was taken.

A metre-long core from inside the prehistoric stone was removed during archaeological excavations in 1958.

No one knew where it was until Robert Phillips, 89, who was involved in those works, decided to return it.

English Heritage, which looks after Stonehenge, hopes the sample might now help establish where the stones originally came from.

In 1958 archaeologists raised an entire fallen trilithon – a set of three large stones, consisting of two that would have stood upright with the third placed horizontally across the top.

During the works, cracks were found in one of the vertical stones and in order to reinforce it, cores were drilled through the stone and metal rods inserted.

The repairs were masked by small plugs cut from sarsen fragments found during excavations.

Image copyright Alamy
Image caption Archaeologists hope to analyse the composition of the core to pinpoint where the ancient Sarsen stones might have come from

For 60 years Mr Phillips, an Englishman who now lives in retirement in Florida, kept his piece of Stonehenge – first in in a plastic tube at his office in Basingstoke and later on the wall at home in the US.

Back in the 1950s he had been employed by a diamond-cutting firm brought in to help reinforce the giant stones.

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Robert Phillips now lives in Aventura, to the north of Miami, Florida

The company, Van Moppes, bored holes into three stones before stabilising metal rods were inserted.

During the process workers extracted three 1m-long (3ft) cores of stone and Mr Phillips took one of them.

But on the eve of his 90th birthday, he decided to return it.

Image copyright Family photo
Image caption Mr Phillips’s sons Lewis and Robin travelled to Stonehenge to hand the sample over

Archaeologists hope to analyse the chemical composition of the core to try to pinpoint where the ancient Sarsen stones might have come from.

Although the sample was handed back last May, English Heritage said it had not announced the find until now as it had to first understand its significance.

The whereabouts of the other two Stonehenge cores remains a mystery and English Heritage is appealing for anyone with any information to contact them.

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