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No Stonehenge summer solstice as COVID-19 shuts down the site

Friday, May 15th 2020, 5:56 pm - Social distancing rules prohibiting large gatherings of people factored into the decision, organizers say.

For literally thousands of years, people have flocked to Stonehenge in Wiltshire, England, to mark the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. Now, it seems, the COVID-19 pandemic will make 2020 one of the exceptions.

The ban on public gatherings meant to curb the disease's spread has prompted Heritage England, which manages the site, to announce the cancellation of this year's solstice celebrations, opting to live stream it instead. The 2020 solstice is on June 20th.

"We spoke with the emergency services, the druid and pagan community and others before making this decision, and look forward to welcoming everyone again next year," Heritage England said on social media this week.

Stonehenge English Heritage Twitter Image: Heritage England.

Senior Druid King Arthur Pendragon told the BBC pilgrims come "from around the world" to visit Stonehenge at the solstice, but says the closure was understandable under the present circumstances.

"The Solstice is to us on a par to what Christmas is to Christians, and Stonehenge is to us like a cathedral...to us it's a place of spirituality," he told the broadcaster.

Stonehenge has been closed since mid-March, and the celebration of the spring equinox was cancelled at the end of that month.

Historians say it's not clear exactly what Stonehenge, which may have been constructed as early as 3000 BCE, was used for, but it is presumed that the people who built it had some proficiency in astronomy, since the sun shines through the entrance stone directly into the monument on the summer solstice.

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