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Summer Solstice 2017: Thousands gather at Stonehenge to witness sun rising

An estimated 13,000 people showed up at the Neolithic monument to mark the solstice

Loulla-Mae Eleftheriou-Smith
Wednesday 21 June 2017 13:48 BST
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Timelapse of Summer Solstice sunrise over London

Thousands of people descended on the prehistoric site of Stonehenge in the early hours of Wednesday morning to witness the dawn of the summer solstice and bring in the first day of summer.

An estimated 13,000 sun-worshippers attended the Neolithic monument in Wiltshire in time for the 4:52am sunrise, an increase of around 1,000 people on last year’s solstice event.

The ancient monument is believed to have been used as an important religious site by early Britons around 4,000 years ago, and it has become a popular place for pagan celebrations since the start of the 20th century.

Each year people arrive in their droves to see the sunrise, many of whom are dressed in modern druid robes, costumes or wearing flower garlands.

Stonehenge is widely believed to be a prehistoric temple built to mark the movements of the sun. The heel stone and slaughter stones at the site are aligned with the sunrise on the summer solstice.

Armed police were deployed to the site as part of an increase in security at major events and festivals following the London and Manchester terror attacks.

A reveller spins glow sticks as people gather to celebrate the pagan festival of Summer Solstice at Stonehenge (AFP/Getty Images)
The sun rises over Stonehenge on Wednesday morning (AFP/Getty Images)
People clasp their hands together as the sun comes up on the Summer Solstice (REUTERS)
Those clothed in druid costume watch the sun rise on the Stonehenge monument (REUTERS)
Revellers touch the Heel stone as people watch the sun rise (AFP/Getty Images)
Others wore flower garlands as the sun rose on the late-Neolithic monument (REUTERS)

Wiltshire Police made seven arrests that were “mostly drug related”, while people who brought pets, sleeping bags, duvets, barbecues or camping equipment were not allowed to access the site. Remote-controlled aircraft and drones were also banned.

The summer solstice is marked with a number of festivals, feasts and rituals across different faiths, and is strongly associated with fertility, growth and light.

This year Google also marked the solstice with a doodle animation showing a mouse reading in an underground home. A bird lands on the ground above the mouse hole and pecks the floor until a shaft of light shines through to the mouse, which then dons a pair of sunglasses.

Additional reporting by PA

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