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The Summer Solstice has been an enjoyable and peaceful event. Mystery of Stonehenge

Mystery of Stonehenge

Up to 21,000 people welcomed in the Summer Solstice with beating drums at Stonehenge. Cheers rung out across Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire as the sun rose over the "heel" stone at 04.58.

A few high wisps of cloud together with a low-lying mist added to the splendour of dawn on the longest day of the year and the all-night festivities at the ancient stone circle passed relatively peacefully.

The stone circle where revellers gather annually for the Summer Solstice has a mysterious past that spans five millennia. Stonehenge, a World Heritage site eight miles north of Salisbury in Wiltshire, is one of the world's most famous prehistoric monuments, yet who built it and why remains a mystery

  • Its construction has been attributed to Celtic Druids, indigenous tribes from the late-Neolithic period and even the Arthurian wizard Merlin
  • Some believe it was a temple used to worship ancient earth deities. Others say it was a prehistoric astronomical observatory or a sacred burial site for people of high birth
  • A large bank and ditch earthwork - called a henge - was first dug using tools believed to have been made from wood and red deer antlers in about 3100BC
  • The first stone circle, now forming the inner circle, was erected in about 2500BC. About 80 small blue stones, each weighing about four tonnes, were used. They are thought to come from the Prescelly Mountains in Pembrokeshire, Wales, some 200 miles away. This work was abandoned before its completion
  • The outer concentric circle, erected in around 2300BC, is formed of giant sarsen stones, weighing up to 50 tonnes each, from the Marlborough Downs, about 20 miles away. This was the third and final stage in the building operation of what is there today
  • Stonehenge is not the largest stone circle in the world but it is the only one that has lintels around the top, making it unique
  • Archaeologists recently uncovered a number of ancient skeletons buried near Stonehenge, including the Amesbury Archer who was found with the earliest gold ever discovered in Britain and numerous artefacts including his bow, earning him the title "The King of Stonehenge" in the press
  • Summer Solstice revellers used to number around 70,000. In 1985 they clashed with up to 500 police in the infamous "Battle of the Beanfield"
  • The following year Margaret Thatcher's controversial Public Order Act spelled an end to such mass gatherings. Full access to the stones for celebrations has only been gradually reintroduced in the last few years
  • Story

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