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23 June 2005
Druids celebrate wrong solstice at Stonehenge?

Modern-day druids and other New Age revellers who travel to Stonehenge (UK) in the conviction that they are marking an ancient midsummer festival may be celebrating the wrong solstice. The latest archaeological findings add to the growing evidence that the ancient site was used to mark the winter solstice.
     Dr. Umberto Albarella, an animal bone expert from the University of Sheffield, has analysed pigs’ teeth found at nearby Durrington Walls, a site long thought to have been ceremonially connected to Stonehenge. His conclusion is that the animals were slaughtered during the winter. Dr. Albarella points out that pigs in the Neolithic period were an early domestic variety that farrowed once a year, in the spring. All of the large number of bones excavated were from animals less than a year old, indicating that they were killed in December or January and pointing to a winter solstice festival.
     Celebrants at Durrington Walls are also thought to have feasted on cattle an aurochs – an extinct wild ox – before processing to Stonehenge.
     Durrington Walls, a wooden post hole circle that sits between Stonehenge and the River Avon, is the largest ceremonial site of its period in the UK. It is one of a number of sites in the vicinity of Stonehenge that are being studied by the University of Sheffield archaeology department. Project leader Professor Mike Parker Pearson says: “We have no evidence that anyone was in the landscape in the summer.”

Source: Daily Telegraph (21 June 2005)

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