Friday, June 10, 2011

Bones tell of beheading at the henge

STONEHENGE was the setting for a ritual public execution nearly 2,000 years ago, English Heritage said yesterday.

According to a new study, one of four complete skeletons found among the stones belonged to a man beheaded with an iron sword at some time in the first millennium. The bones were first excavated in 1923 but were believed lost until last year. They have yet to be accurately dated, but may have come from an ancient Briton killed by invading Romans or a Saxon leader executed by a rival kingdom.

The name Stonehenge derives from the Old English Stanhenges, meaning "stone gallows". But the description is usually thought to refer to the appearance of the trilithons - where one lintel is placed on two uprights - which resembles medieval gallows. This is the first evidence that the site was used for executions.

The remains, which are at least 1,000 years old, were excavated by Lt Col William Hawley. They had been stored at the Royal College of Surgeons in London but were assumed by archaeologists to have been destroyed in the Blitz. In fact they had been moved to the country and then back to the Natural History Museum in the Fifties.

More at The Telegraph