Stonehenge Solstice (Don Ward)

By: Don Ward
By: Don Ward

This was a special day at a special place...the most important sunrise to watch at one place where they watch the sunrise.

A Sunrise Celebration

Stonehenge is an ancient circle of huge stones in the Salisbury Plain in southern England.  It was started, somehow,  about 5,000 years ago and it's estimated to have reached it's current configuration about 3,000 years ago.  That configuration is such that the sun, on the summer solstice, lines up precisely with key stones within and just outside the main circle.  This was the sunrise this morning.

    

About 20,000 people gathered there this morning to celebrate the occasion or mark it in their own way...lots of what British news reports called "new agers and neo-pagans" were there for the mystical morning.  The fact is though, that no one is really sure why Stonehenge was built...or how.

The big stones called Sarsen stones are each about 18 feet tall and they weigh 25 tons. It's hard to imagine how they were put in place. Here are a few pictures from when I was there this past March.  When you take in the sheer size and weight of these stones it's amazing.  The audio tour states that some of the larger ones have about a third of their mass under the ground.

       

The other stones, the "bluestones" have had their origin traced to southern Wales, about 240 miles away from their final destination.  With the most primitive of tools and technology how in the world did circle-builders get these stones to this spot, and get them on top of the other ones?  Some estimate that building Stonehenge took more than 30 million hours of labor!

Most days it's nothing like it was today.  There may be a few dozen or a couple of hundred people there at any given time, and none of them are neo-anything.  At any time though, there is still something mystical about the site.  You circle the circle, slowly and just take it all in, and wonder how it came to be.

 

    

         

Researchers say it's clear that the builders had some pretty good understanding of geometry and math concepts and astronomy to position the stones with such precision and accuracy. Was it a calendar, a temple, a sacrificial altar, a tribute to some ruler, a declaration of power for any approaching enemies, a landmark..? All of the above?  It's a landmark now.  An awesome site embedded in the highest piece of ground for miles in every direction.

From a distance it doesn't look like much..but imagine a structure of that mass and that implied power through the eyes of someone 3,000 years ago!  If you ever get a chance to visit Stonehenge, do it.  You can take a day trip from London and it's well worth the trip.  It's worth the time to walk and watch and wonder how and why.  Just don't go on the summer solstice!

We'll talk again soon.

Don Ward

 

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