London, Mar 10 : Stonehenge, the prehistoric monument built in several construction phases spanning at least 3000 years, was the site of Stone Age battles to the death, a leading archaeologist has claimed.
Dennis Price, a Stonehenge expert and former archaeologist with Wessex Archaeology, said that he thinks a skeleton discovered in a ditch around the ancient monument in 1978 is evidence that the site was used for ritual combat.
The skeleton belonged to a man who had been killed by arrows in 2,300 BC and after being analyzed was donated to Salisbury Museum.
Price said that the skeletons found at or close to Stonehenge have often been found buried with weapons, which suggest that those close to the mysterious monument could have died violent deaths.
"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," Swindon Advertiser 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," he added.
As evidence to the theory that the Stonehenge was an arena for violent combat sports, 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," he added.
One of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world, the Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument located in the English county of Wiltshire, about 8 miles (13 km) north of Salisbury.
"I think that remains of one of these Stonehenge Sentinels is on display at Salisbury Museum," Price said.