London, Mar 6 : A skeleton discovered at Stonehenge in 1978, and on display at the Salisbury Museum for nearly a decade may hold the secret to the prehistoric monument's mysterious past.
According to archaeological expert Dennis Price, it may also show that the site, located in the English county of Wiltshire, was an arena of gladiatorial combat.
Professor Richard Atkinson and J.G Evans discovered the skeleton, of a man killed by arrows in 2,300 BC, in a ditch surrounding the monument during a 1978 excavation gig.
After analysis, it was donated to Salisbury museum, and has been on display there ever since.
Now, Stonehenge expert Dennis Price says that the skeleton's remains offer tangible proof that the Stonehenge was once an ancient arena hosting gladiatorial combat.
"There is firm evidence of a long-standing tradition of sentinels at Stonehenge going back to when it was originally built in 2,600 BC - and possibly before," the Salisbury Journal quoted him, as saying.
"The function of these individuals was to symbolically guard the temple, but I think they could only be replaced by someone who physically defeated them in a ritual combat.
"I think that remains of one of these Stonehenge Sentinels is on display at Salisbury Museum, where he's currently known as 'the body from the ditch'."
As evidence to the theory that the Stonehenge was an arena for violent combat sports, Mr Price points out that many burial plots at the site contain a variety of ancient weaponry.
"Many of the barrows surrounding Stonehenge contained weapons such as daggers and maces, and these were extremely violent times," he said.
"Many of the human remains found in the Stonehenge landscape suffered crippling wounds, especially the Amesbury Archer and the Boscombe Bowmen, or other builders of Stonehenge.
"There was a well-recorded murderous ritual at the temple of Diana, at Nemi, in Italy, in Roman times, where a man could become a priest of Diana's temple only by fighting and killing the resident priest.
"There is a striking resemblance between what we know of Stonehenge and Nemi - both sites regularly witnessed the violent death of individual humans, both were linked with archery and with gods or goddesses who were archers, and both have an obvious religious significance."