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Stonehenge Night Light Fight Flares up

By Periscope @periscopepost

Stonehenge night light fight flares up

Stonehenge. Photo credit: Darkest Before Dawn

There’s little doubting that Stonehenge is one of Britain’s most breath-taking attractions. The prehistoric stone monument near Salisbury in the Wiltshire countryside dates back to 3000 BC and today draws thousands of visitors a day. But are enough people marveling at its ancient wonder? That’s the question being posed by local campaigners who would like the site lit up after sunset. Opponents stress that lighting the stone circle misses the point; those who erected the massive stones never intentioned it to become a tourist theme-park.

Shine a light on Stonehenge magic. For centuries Wiltshire folk have spent much time mulling Stonehenge’s mysteries. It’s local Lady Mimi Pakenham who has sparked this week’s national debate about the monument. Through contacting national media, she is spearheading the campaign for it to be lit up at night. In a letter to The Times, she said she’d like to see Stonehenge illuminated “like the pyramids in Egypt or Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome.” Pakenham insisted lighting would mean “the magic of Stonehenge could be shared every evening with all who pass, many of whom can’t afford a ticket, just as it was a magical place thousands of years ago, sometimes with the Moon and clouds shining as well.” Pakenham added that, “with subtle lighting sunk well out of view and endless possibilities of solar energy, the monumental power of ancient man’s achievement in another age would inspire all who pass by … Perhaps in depressing times a cocktail of cost-free magic is the very least we can expect from the guardians of the national heritage.” Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme on Tuesday morning, Pakenham reiterated her desire to see “lighting experts” do their thing to Stonehenge. Stonehenge is owned by the Crown and managed by English Heritage, while the surrounding land is owned by the National Trust.

Virtual excavation research undertaken by archaeologists led by the University of Birmingham, and reported in Wired today, has found that sun worship at the Stonehenge site predates the erection of the stone circle.

Stones and starry might sky. Pakenham’s mission has not impressed some archaeologists. On Today, Clive Ruggles, a professor of archaeoastronomy – the study of how ancient cultures understood the sky, said seeing Stonehenge alongside the stars was a key part of its appeal: “Stonehenge is iconic of the connections between ancient monuments and the sky, not only with strong connections to the annual cycles of the Sun but also very likely to the Moon and stars.” Ruggles arged that “lighting up the monument “would cut the visual connection between the monument and the starry night sky at a stroke.” The Daily Telegraph noted that Ruggles is no lone wolf; a number of groups, including the Royal Astronomical Society and the International Astronomical Union, have been working alongside English Heritage for several years to try to preserve as dark a night sky as possible in the area.

“The ancient religious rituals in Stonehenge would certainly have involved torches and fires. Isn’t it time the scientific community climbs down from its astronomical ivory tower and shares a little more of the jewels of the nation with the rest of the country?” asked Lady Pakenham in her second letter to The Times.

Night light fight. Writing at, Mark Halper called the Stonehenge debate the “biggest night lighting uproar since Wrigley Field … We all know which side won the night light fight at the iconic ballpark on Chicago’s north side 20-plus years ago, although even there they exercise restraint. But this is England, where history doesn’t give way to modernity as readily as it does in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave and Thomas Edison.” Halper forecast that the illuminators could well win the day: “it might be time to get ready for Druid bobblehead night in the countryside 90 miles southwest of London.”

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