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Crowds mark summer solstice at ancient Stonehenge monument

It was the first time revelers have been permitted to gather for the solstice since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

LONDON, UK — Thousands of druids, pagans and New Age revelers greeted the summer solstice at Stonehenge on Tuesday, the longest day of the northern hemisphere year.

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Wiltshire Police said about 6,000 people gathered at the ancient stone circle in southern England to watch the sun rise at 4:49 a.m. (0349GMT) on a clear, crisp morning.

Police said the atmosphere was “convivial” and there were only two arrests — one for assault and one for drug possession.

In a Facebook post, the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon thanked everyone for making the event "peaceful and safe."

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It was the first time revelers have been permitted to gather for the solstice since 2019. The sunrise was streamed online in 2020 and 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Stonehenge was built between 5,000 and 3,500 years ago on a windswept plain in southwest England by a sun-worshipping Neolithic culture. 

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.

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The celebration has not always been so tranquil. In 1985, police and revelers violently clashed over an unauthorized arts and culture festival organized at Stonehenge for the summer solstice. The event resulted in Stonehenge being subsequently closed down during summer solstices for the next 15 years. 

In 2000, the English Heritage Trust reopened Stonehenge for the solstice. Celebrations since have been peaceful, with only a few arrests for minor offenses each year.

 

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