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Sigurd
Friday, March 7th, 2008, 02:09 AM
Skeleton could hold secret to Stonehenge


A SKELETON, which has been on prominent display in Salisbury Museum for nearly a decade, could hold the secret to Stonehenge's mysterious past and show the site to be an arena of gladiatorial combat, an archaeological expert has claimed.

The skeleton, that of a man who had been killed by arrows in 2,300 BC, was discovered in the ditch surrounding the stones during excavation work, carried out by Professor Richard Atkinson and J.G Evans in 1978.

After being analysed, the skeleton was donated to Salisbury museum, where it has been on display as a key part of the museum's Stonehenge exhibit under the title of "the body from the ditch".

However, Stonehenge expert and former archaeologist with Wessex Archaeology, Dennis Price, believes the skeleton's inauspicious title belies the fact the remains offer tangible proof the site was once used as an ancient arena hosting violent combat sports.

He said: "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 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.
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"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 for this claim, Mr Price points to the fact many of the burial plots found at the site contain a variety of ancient weaponry.

He added: "Many of the barrows surrounding Stonehenge contained weapons such as daggers and maces, and these were extremely violent times.

"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."

Mr Price also points to evidence from a site similar to Stonehenge, located in Italy, as further evidence for his argument gladiatorial combat once took place in south Wiltshire.

He said: "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."

Director of Salisbury and south Wiltshire Museum, Adrian Green, added: "What I love about Stonehenge is the endless number of stories surrounding the evidence that has been found there.

"Dennis Price's idea that there was a sentinel or guardian of Stonehenge, who could only be replaced through combat to the death, conjures up a harsh image of life more than 4,000 years ago, but it also has a certain romantic quality to it."

Source (http://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk/news/salisbury/salisburynews/display.var.2093945.0.skeleton_could_hol d_secret_to_stonehenge.php)

Sigurd
Friday, March 7th, 2008, 02:16 AM
Skeleton could hold secret to Stonehenge



A SKELETON, which has been on prominent display in Salisbury Museum for nearly a decade, could hold the secret to Stonehenge's mysterious past and show the site to be an arena of gladiatorial combat, an archaeological expert has claimed.

[...]


More (http://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk/news/salisbury/salisburynews/display.var.2093945.0.skeleton_could_hol d_secret_to_stonehenge.php)

Gorm the Old
Friday, March 7th, 2008, 03:07 AM
I don't see why he couldn't have been an interloper who was killed by guards set to protect the sanctity of the site during secret rituals.

SwordOfTheVistula
Friday, March 7th, 2008, 04:07 AM
Is there any evidence they actually died at Stonehenge?

I find it more likely that famous warriors or warrior-kings were buried at Stonehenge after being killed in battle.

Lyfing
Friday, March 7th, 2008, 03:13 PM
"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."

More (http://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk/news/salisbury/salisburynews/display.var.2093945.0.skeleton_could_hol d_secret_to_stonehenge.php)

That is interesting and reminds me of this from Sir James G. Frazer's The Golden Bough...




I. The King of the Wood
1. Diana and Virbius
WHO does not know Turner’s picture of the Golden Bough? The scene, suffused with the golden glow of imagination in which the divine mind of Turner steeped and transfigured even the fairest natural landscape, is a dream-like vision of the little woodland lake of Nemi— “Diana’s Mirror,” as it was called by the ancients. No one who has seen that calm water, lapped in a green hollow of the Alban hills, can ever forget it. The two characteristic Italian villages which slumber on its banks, and the equally Italian palace whose terraced gardens descend steeply to the lake, hardly break the stillness and even the solitariness of the scene. Diana herself might still linger by this lonely shore, still haunt these woodlands wild.

In antiquity this sylvan landscape was the scene of a strange and recurring tragedy. On the northern shore of the lake, right under the precipitous cliffs on which the modern village of Nemi is perched, stood the sacred grove and sanctuary of Diana Nemorensis, or Diana of the Wood. The lake and the grove were sometimes known as the lake and grove of Aricia. But the town of Aricia (the modern La Riccia) was situated about three miles off, at the foot of the Alban Mount, and separated by a steep descent from the lake, which lies in a small crater-like hollow on the mountain side. In this sacred grove there grew a certain tree round which at any time of the day, and probably far into the night, a grim figure might be seen to prowl. In his hand he carried a drawn sword, and he kept peering warily about him as if at every instant he expected to be set upon by an enemy. He was a priest and a murderer; and the man for whom he looked was sooner or later to murder him and hold the priesthood in his stead. Such was the rule of the sanctuary. A candidate for the priesthood could only succeed to office by slaying the priest, and having slain him, he retained office till he was himself slain by a stronger or a craftier.

The post which he held by this precarious tenure carried with it the title of king; but surely no crowned head ever lay uneasier, or was visited by more evil dreams, than his. For year in, year out, in summer and winter, in fair weather and in foul, he had to keep his lonely watch, and whenever he snatched a troubled slumber it was at the peril of his life. The least relaxation of his vigilance, the smallest abatement of his strength of limb or skill of fence, put him in jeopardy; grey hairs might seal his death-warrant. To gentle and pious pilgrims at the shrine the sight of him might well seem to darken the fair landscape, as when a cloud suddenly blots the sun on a bright day. The dreamy blue of Italian skies, the dappled shade of summer woods, and the sparkle of waves in the sun, can have accorded but ill with that stern and sinister figure. Rather we picture to ourselves the scene as it may have been witnessed by a belated wayfarer on one of those wild autumn nights when the dead leaves are falling thick, and the winds seem to sing the dirge of the dying year. It is a sombre picture, set to melancholy music—the background of forest showing black and jagged against a lowering and stormy sky, the sighing of the wind in the branches, the rustle of the withered leaves under foot, the lapping of the cold water on the shore, and in the foreground, pacing to and fro, now in twilight and now in gloom, a dark figure with a glitter of steel at the shoulder whenever the pale moon, riding clear of the cloud-rack, peers down at him through the matted boughs.

The strange rule of this priesthood has no parallel in classical antiquity, and cannot be explained from it. To find an explanation we must go farther afield. No one will probably deny that such a custom savours of a barbarous age, and, surviving into imperial times, stands out in striking isolation from the polished Italian society of the day, like a primaeval rock rising from a smooth-shaven lawn. It is the very rudeness and barbarity of the custom which allow us a hope of explaining it. For recent researches into the early history of man have revealed the essential similarity with which, under many superficial differences, the human mind has elaborated its first crude philosophy of life. Accordingly, if we can show that a barbarous custom, like that of the priesthood of Nemi, has existed elsewhere; if we can detect the motives which led to its institution; if we can prove that these motives have operated widely, perhaps universally, in human society, producing in varied circumstances a variety of institutions specifically different but generically alike; if we can show, lastly, that these very motives, with some of their derivative institutions, were actually at work in classical antiquity; then we may fairly infer that at a remoter age the same motives gave birth to the priesthood of Nemi. Such an inference, in default of direct evidence as to how the priesthood did actually arise, can never amount to demonstration. But it will be more or less probable according to the degree of completeness with which it fulfils the conditions I have indicated. The object of this book is, by meeting these conditions, to offer a fairly probable explanation of the priesthood of Nemi.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/f/frazer/james/golden/chapter1.html




LXV. Balder and the Mistletoe

THE READER may remember that the preceding account of the popular fire-festivals of Europe was suggested by the myth of the Norse god Balder, who is said to have been slain by a branch of mistletoe and burnt in a great fire. We have now to enquire how far the customs which have been passed in review help to shed light on the myth. In this enquiry it may be convenient to begin with the mistletoe, the instrument of Balder’s death.

...

Be that as it may, certain it is that the mistletoe, the instrument of Balder’s death, has been regularly gathered for the sake of its mystic qualities on Midsummer Eve in Scandinavia, Balder’s home. The plant is found commonly growing on pear-trees, oaks, and other trees in thick damp woods throughout the more temperate parts of Sweden. Thus one of the two main incidents of Balder’s myth is reproduced in the great midsummer festival of Scandinavia. But the other main incident of the myth, the burning of Balder’s body on a pyre, has also its counterpart in the bonfires which still blaze, or blazed till lately, in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden on Midsummer Eve. It does not appear, indeed, that any effigy is burned in these bonfires; but the burning of an effigy is a feature which might easily drop out after its meaning was forgotten. And the name of Balder’s balefires (Balder’s Bălar), by which these midsummer fires were formerly known in Sweden, puts their connexion with Balder beyond the reach of doubt, and makes it probable that in former times either a living representative or an effigy of Balder was annually burned in them. Midsummer was the season sacred to Balder, and the Swedish poet Tegner, in placing the burning of Balder at midsummer, may very well have followed an old tradition that the summer solstice was the time when the good god came to his untimely end.

...

On this view the invulnerable Balder is neither more nor less than a personification of a mistletoe-bearing oak. The interpretation is confirmed by what seems to have been an ancient Italian belief, that the mistletoe can be destroyed neither by fire nor water; for if the parasite is thus deemed indestructible, it might easily be supposed to communicate its own indestructibility to the tree on which it grows, so long as the two remain in conjunction. Or, to put the same idea in mythical form, we might tell how the kindly god of the oak had his life securely deposited in the imperishable mistletoe which grew among the branches; how accordingly so long as the mistletoe kept its place there, the deity himself remained invulnerable; and how at last a cunning foe, let into the secret of the god’s invulnerability, tore the mistletoe from the oak, thereby killing the oak-god and afterwards burning his body in a fire which could have made no impression on him so long as the incombustible parasite retained its seat among the boughs.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/f/frazer/james/golden/chapter65.html


Now grounds have been shown for believing that the priest of the Arician grove—the King of the Wood—personified the tree on which grew the Golden Bough. Hence if that tree was the oak, the King of the Wood must have been a personification of the oakspirit. It is, therefore, easy to understand why, before he could be slain, it was necessary to break the Golden Bough. As an oak-spirit, his life or death was in the mistletoe on the oak, and so long as the mistletoe remained intact, he, like Balder, could not die. To slay him, therefore, it was necessary to break the mistletoe, and probably, as in the case of Balder, to throw it at him.And to complete the parallel, it is only necessary to suppose that the King of the Wood was formerly burned, dead or alive, at the midsummer fire festival which, as we have seen, was annually celebrated in the Arician grove. The perpetual fire which burned in the grove, like the perpetual fire which burned in the temple of Vesta at Rome and under the oak at Romove, was probably fed with the sacred oak-wood; and thus it would be in a great fire of oak that the King of the Wood formerly met his end. At a later time, as I have suggested, his annual tenure of office was lengthened or shortened, as the case might be, by the rule which allowed him to live so long as he could prove his divine right by the strong hand. But he only escaped the fire to fall by the sword.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/f/frazer/james/golden/chapter68.html


It is known that on the longest day of the year, the summer solstice, the sun shines directly through the centre of the structure, a fact that, given many of the cultural attitudes of sun worship that were rampant in antiquity, suggests a religious purpose.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theories_about_Stonehenge

Hmmm..makes me wonder ?

Later,
-Lyfing

Gagnraad
Friday, March 7th, 2008, 03:51 PM
2. 600 BC...

Stonehenge could even be a place where they executed people. "Hey you, stand over there and face the wall!" *put arrow into bow, fire, repeat* "You still alive?" "Almost..." Damned!" *get the mob to stone him*
You never know, I mean, stonehenge could have been anything we want it to be.

SmokyGod
Sunday, March 9th, 2008, 07:40 AM
yep. Its still just a badass circle of rocks with dead people beneath it, to me