Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

Today in class we talked a lot about stonehenge and something that came up was the large gatherings that occur at stonehenge each year during the summer solstice. Like professor Watrall said this is the only time that people are actually allowed within stonehenge. I thought this was very intriguing and what I found out was that it was not always this way.

People have been traveling to stonehenge for thousands of years for many various reason. But in more recent years specifically the 70’s there was the creation of somewhat of a festival during the summer solstice. People with similar ideas about life would travel from all over to celebrate and have a fun evening at stonehenge during the summer solstice.  But in 1985 the courts or Britain ruled that people would no longer be allowed to gather at stonehenge during the summer solstice. And it was during the summer solstice of this year the the “Battle of the Bean field” took place. People were coming by the thousands for the summer solstice but the police were not going to allow them in. The police reportedly beat and smashed people and their cars trying to prevent them from getting to stonehenge and the result was a brutal night. People were horribly beaten and hurt and many were arrested. The people were outraged. But for the next fifteen years this was how it was. People were no longer allowed to visit stonehenge. The police had a four mile zone set up in which people could not enter. Though every year people tried to get past and were arrested it wasn’t until the year 2000 that officials finally let people back in to stonehenge. And according to police reports the whole evening went great. Many people aren’t there to vandalize or destroy stonehenge they are there to celebrate life. And since then the festival has grown larger each year. All kinds of people come to the festival each year from druids to school children and their teachers.

Many people believe still though, that vandalism and deterioration of such a historic monument is a real issue. And in reality it is. Many people think that people should not be allowed to enter stonehenge during the summer solstice because even though it is only one day a lot of damage can be done. But also what many people argue is that stonehenge has been a gathering place for thousands of years so why should we change that? So what do you think? Should stonehenge be close to the public 365 days of the year or should people be able to gather and celebrate life during the summer solstice as people have been doing for years?

5 thoughts on “Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

  1. It’s very interesting to read your post about the history of security and permission to visit Stonehenge during the Summer Solstice. It is definitely true that every time someone touches or even breaths on the stones it does even the slightest erosion, which of course over time; in addition to wind and rain and other weather patterns, Stonehenge will see more erosion to it.

    While I do find this sad, it’s also inevitable. Humans can try their best to preserve the landscape for as long as possible, but we are not perfect, neither is the climate, or the stones, woodhenges, etc. Erosion and damage is bound to occur over time.

    Granted however, people should have enough respect and maturity to not be knocking over things, drawing/ carving graffiti on them, or rubbing their hands all over them. And unfortunately, not all humans are capable of having that respect, and by allowing people to enter Stonehenge without any barriers begets this kind of activity.

    However, I do not think that because of the wrong-doing and foolishness of some should have to be punishment for those who truly want to visit Stonehenge up close for it’s beauty and history.

    I think that by having boundaries as to where visitors can walk within Stonehenge throughout most of the year is a good idea; and hopefully that one day (Summer Solstice) of increased human activity and interaction won’t significantly speed up damage. I guess only time will tell; and it will be interesting to see if during our lifetime, any changes are made to how close people can visit Stonehenge.

  2. In class, I was shocked to see the pictures of what the summer solstice gathering at Stonehenge looked like. To me, it reminded me more of a crowd at a huge music festival like Coachella than an archaeological site. I had no idea that summer solstice at Stonehenge was such a big deal. What also shocked me was reading about the “Battle of the Bean”. I was amazed to learn that for some people, celebrating the summer solstice at Stonehenge was so important, they were willing to be beaten and arrested for it.
    I can see both sides of the argument here and I understand why people would want Stonehenge closed to the public year round, but also why it might be important to let people use it for celebration of the solstice. On one hand, Stonehenge is a precious archaeological artifact, which contains important information about human history. As professor Watrall said in class, humans are dirty creatures, and each time someone touches a rock, it is being eroded and compromised. Although the erosion and damage seen each year might be small, just think of the damage might occur after years and years of celebration.
    On the other hand, it is widely believed that Stonehenge was built for the purpose of religious ceremony and as a gathering place for celebration. Why not use it how the builders intended it to be used? For many people, the summer solstice is a very important time to celebrate life and their spirituality, so why not give them this one day? Even without the human contact, it’s not like Stonehenge would have lasted forever anyway. I think the original builders of the site would be pleased to see that their work is still being celebrated and used after all these years.

  3. The issue of whether or not the huge summer and winter solstice gatherings at Stonehenge should be allowed is a complex one. Stonehenge is one of the most well-known and intriguing archaeological sites in the world. As a result, the decision to allow the gatherings at Stonehenge is an important one.

    As other students have pointed out, there are valid arguments for both sides of this issue. It is thought that Stonehenge was used as a gathering place for ceremony and ritual practices, so why not honor its original purpose? As evidenced by the Battle of the Beanfield, the yearly pilgrimages to Stonehenge for the solstices mean a great deal to people. Is it right to deprive people of the ability to gather at the monument up-close? In addition, the site is exposed to the elements so it is not going to last forever. Nothing can, as that is the nature of things. Eventually, the wind and rain and other forces would slowly destroy Stonehenge on their own.

    On the other hand, over time these gatherings could slowly degrade the site. Every time a person touches one of these stones, a very small amount of it erodes. In addition, according to Professor Watrall’s description of the solstice gatherings, they leave the site in very rough shape. Because of how many people come, there is the potential for more significant damage.

    In order to make a decision, we must weigh the risks and benefits of these gatherings. Damage to the site is a major risk, because it could inhibit further archaeological study. But these gatherings seem to bring joy to many people. Personally, I think a compromise could be arranged. I think people should be allowed to gather around the stones, but that the stones themselves should be roped off to leave a safe distance between them and the crowd. This way people can get close enough to the stones to see them well and enjoy the gathering, but not be able to touch or damage them. Stonehenge is an important monument, and I’m sure that most archaeologists would like to be able to continue studying it. As with Chauvet Cave, I think closing off the actual stones would help to preserve the site for further study. Even with the stones blocked off, though, people would still be able to get close to them for the solstice gatherings. This solution would appease people on both sides of this issue.

  4. I found your post about the Summer Solstice celebrations at Stonehenge to be very interesting. I was fascinated by this topic while learning about it in lecture. In lecture we learned that this is the only time that you can actually go into Stonehenge and physically touch the stones. As you mentioned in your post, this can come along with copious amounts of damage and vandalism. While researching this on the Internet, I found that during these festivals that take place at Stonehenge, deliberate damage is done to the stones such as graffiti, placing oil on the stones, and placing chewing gum on the stones. Damage to the stones is a really unfortunate situation for such a well-known and magnificent archeological site.

    Because so many people are amazed by Stonehenge and would love to visit the site, I feel like there should be a happy medium between letting people observe the site and enjoy it, while also protecting it from the damage done from the gatherers. I do not believe that it is necessary to physically touch the stones. i think that if people gathered around the stones, observed the famous archeological site, took pictures of the stones, and celebrated without physically touching the stones, it would still be a great celebration without posing a threat to damage of the historic monument. There are all types of people in this world and while a majority of visitors would respect Stonehenge and enjoy the site without vandalizing it, many immature people will still fail to respect the history site and engage in vandalism, like they have in the past. I think the only real way to prevent damage while allowing people to still enjoy the archeological site during celebrations such as the Summer Solstice, is to allow people to gather around the stones, but not physically touch them. However, there would have to be some sort of barrier to prevent some people from going up to touch the stones. Of course damage to the surrounding land can still occur, but perhaps it would be less severe if the stones themselves did not suffer damage.

    Stonehenge is such a famous archeological site and so many people would love to visit it and celebrate around the historic site and I believe that this should still be able to occur with certain restrictions, such as not being able to physically touch the stones, all in order to prevent damage to this historic site.

  5. This is an interesting topic, as I have done my post on the winter solstice instead of the summer solstice . But both seem to have caused problems with being allowed into the circle of Stonehenge. As a religious spot for many people, there are thousands who travel to see it. And specifically on the solstices, where thousands of people can gather at one time.

    All though you mentioned that most do not wish to cause damage to the stones, there are some people who end up doing it anyways. This has caused problems, like you mentioned by being not allowed to enter the inner part of Stonehenge. But in the end they managed to get it turned over and allowed back in. It is interesting that these people use Stonehenge as a religious place yet it has led these people to be banned for years.

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