Feb. 12 (UPI) -- British researchers say they have evidence that the famous and mysterious Stonehenge may have first stood in Wales before moving to its present location 140 miles away.
The research team, led by Mike Parker Pearson of the University College London, said they have identified an original circle near the megalith quarries in Preseli Hills in Wales, where the stones were made.
The researchers say it's likely the stones were dismantled and moved to Stonehenge's present location in Salisbury Plain due to migration.
"It seems that Stonehenge stage one was built -- partly or wholly -- by Neolithic migrants from Wales, who brought their monument or monuments as a physical manifestation of their ancestral identities to be recreated in similar form on Salisbury Plain -- a locale already holding along the tradition of ceremonial gathering," the researchers wrote in their study, published in the journal Antiquity on Friday.
"Stonehenge's first stage may also have served to unite the people of southern Britain."
"I have been leading projects at Stonehenge since 2003 and this is the culmination of 20 years of research," Parker Pearson said in a statement Thursday.
"It's one of the most important discoveries I've ever made."
The new discoveries, he added, help explain some of the mystery about why ancient civilizations brought the Stonehenge bluestones from so far away while most similar circles were built with stones from only short distances away.
Researchers say they found four remaining stones in Wales, along with empty holes where stones used to stand. They date back to 3400 B.C., they noted.
The experts noted that both the old circle in Wales and the present Stonehenge location align on the midsummer solstice sunrise -- and that unusual cross-sections found on the bluestones of Stonehenge matched the rocks at the location in Wales.
Parker Pearson also speculated that the old site in Preseli Hills may have been only one of the origins of Stonehenge.
"With an estimated 80 bluestones put up on Salisbury Plain at Stonehenge and nearby Bluestonehenge, my guess is that [the Wales location] was not the only stone circle that contributed to Stonehenge," he said. "Maybe there are more in Preseli waiting to be found.
"Who knows? Someone might be lucky enough to find them."