Stonehenge (United Kingdom), June 21 (IANS) The Earth’s northern hemisphere welcomed its longest day of the year on Thursday and hundreds of people gathered at Stonehenge in southern England to celebrate the solstice and the coming of summer.
Stonehenge, a neolithic stone circle on a plain by the Avon river dating back as far as 3000-2000 BC, has in Western culture become synonymous with the summer solstice, when it attracts hordes of visitors, druids and spiritually-minded folk who spend the night by the ancient monument to watch the sunrise.
Archaeologists have long been perplexed by many aspects of the iconic landmark, such as its original purpose and construction methods. Some modern theories posit the site was used for religious ceremonies, including healing rituals, while others believe it was used as a solar calendar due to its astronomical orientation, according to Efe news.
But the blue-stone megaliths appear to have been erected using the solar cycle as a blueprint.
From a standing point looking east from inside the complex of menhirs and dolmens on the morning of the summer equinox, the sun rises directly behind what is known as the heel stone, a sarsen block some 77 metres from Stonehenge.
Its light — depending on the weather — drenches the ancient circle and the merrymakers gathered there in an early morning glow.
Similar gatherings at what is one of the UK’s most iconic cultural landmarks also occur at the winter solstice.
The Unesco site, located in Wiltshire — 130 km from London — is the most impressive of some 900 stone circles found in the UK.
Among the earliest structures known in the Stonehenge area are some pits, which may have held large posts erected in the Mesolithic period (8,500-7,000 BC).
Nowadays, Stonehenge’s ritual use is restricted although the more alternative members of society keep flocking to its Summer Solstice dressed up as druids, shamans, witches, post-hippies and New Agers.