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28 June 2010
2010 Stonehenge summer solstice

As usual, thousands of new agers and neo-pagans danced and whooped in delight Monday June 21st, as a bright early morning sun rose above the ancient stone circle Stonehenge, marking the summer solstice. About 20,000 people crowded the prehistoric site on Salisbury Plain (southern England) to see the sunrise at 4:52 AM (1152EST), following an annual all-night party.
     The event typically draws thousands of alternative-minded revelers to the monument, as they wait for dawn at the Heel Stone, a pockmarked pillar just outside the circle proper, which aligns with the rising sun. Unlike previous recent years, when the sunrise has been obscured by cloud - the bright sun bathed the monument in orange and gold on Monday. "One time in maybe 10 we get a decent sunrise, and that was a good one," said Simon Banton, a 45-year-old education volunteer for English Heritage, the body that manages the site.
     As the sun rose, a woman climbed a rock in the circle center and blew a horn, welcoming in the longest day of the year north of the equator. Drums, tambourines, and cheers reverberated in the background. "It is stunning," said Stewart Dyer, a 43-year-old National Health Service worker and dancer on his first trip to the solstice celebration. "To actually be able to dance amongst the stones, to be able to touch the stones, to be that close to such an ancient monument is unbelievable."
     The annual celebrations at Stonehenge are a modern twist on solstice celebrations which were once a highlight of the pre-Christian calendar. They survive today largely in the form of bonfires, maypole dances and courtship rituals. Stonehenge was closed during the solstice after clashes between police and revelers in 1985. English Heritage reopened it to midsummer celebrations in 2000, and the event has remained largely peaceful. Police said Monday they had made 34 arrests, the majority for drug possession, and reported no serious problems.
     
Sources: Associated Press, Yahoo! News (21 June 2010)

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