Thousands of people from all walks of life have flocked to greet the summer solstice at Stonehenge to mark the longest day of the northern hemisphere year.
- The ancient monument in south-west England attracts large crowds at the summer and winter solstice
- This year’s event is the first to officially take place in two years due to COVID-19 restrictions
- On the solstice, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone and rays of sunlight are channeled into the center of the circle
Over 6,000 druids, pagans and New Age revelers gathered at the ancient stone circle on Tuesday to catch the sunrise phenomenon after two years of COVID-19 restrictions.
Jennifer Davies of English Heritage, the organization responsible for Stonehenge, said this year was “particularly special” after the pandemic.
“Everyone is doing their own celebrations … people take away from it different things,” she said.
“For some people, they really believe it is a place of worship.
“Other people just marvel at its construction and everything and are interested in the archaeology.”
“It’s a very happy, peaceful, almost euphoric occasion,” she said.
Stonehenge was built on a windswept plane in Wiltshire, south-west England, by a sun-worshipping Neolithic culture.
Exactly how those people, with only the most rudimentary tools, came to construct the monument continues to fascinate the world thousands of years later.
Experts still debate its purpose, but it is aligned so that on summer solstice the sun rises behind the Heel Stone and rays of sunlight are channeled into the center of the circle, meaning that it is at this time of the year that its purpose can truly be appreciated.
“Stonehenge is designed and built to celebrate and acknowledge both the summer and the winter solstices,” explains Ms Davies.
“The monument itself, the Stone Circle, is designed so perfectly that at midsummer, when the sun rises, the rays of the sun, they come across the horizon, and they strike precisely straight down the middle of the Stonehenge monument, as precisely as if we had designed it in the 2020s with the most space age instruments available, but this was designed 5,000 years ago.”
Police said the atmosphere was “friendly” and there were only two arrests — one for assault and one for drug possession.
The sunrise was streamed online in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic, although last year dozens of people ignored advice not to travel to attend the monument.