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Winter Solstice 2012: The world definitely is not ending

Winter starts

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The 2011 winter solstice sunset in Frisco, Colorado.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — With all the hoopla of Christmas, it’s easy to forget that the winter solstice was marked by deeply spiritual ceremonies long before the emergence of Christian traditions. But if you take a moment today to contemplate the sun hanging at it’s lowest and most southerly point in the sky, it’s a little easier to understand why ancient people took the trouble to erect massive stone monuments to observe the day.

Try and see the world from the perspective of a Stone Age hunter in a time when the universe was infinitesimally more mysterious than it is today. Now, we understand orbital cycles. Notwithstanding the end-of-the-world hype, we can be fairly certain that the days will soon start getting longer again. We can keep warm in our homes, and fend off the dark with electric lights.

But there must have been a time when the long, dark nights at the start of winter were frightening, with no real assurance that spring would arrive once more. Gradually, through observation, even the ancient ones figured it out, and the fact that the cycle of shortening days was at an end became reason for celebration. Continue reading

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The mystery of Stonehenge … solved?

Research project yields new clues to origins of megalithic circle

Stonehenge may have been built as monument to the unification of civilization in Britain. Photo courtesy Gareth Wiscombe via Wikipedia and the Creative Common.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A 10-year research project into the origins of Stonehenge has concluded that the famous array of stones was built as a monument to mark the growing unification of culture in Britain at the end of the Stone Age.

The stones may have symbolized the ancestors of different groups of earliest farming communities in Britain, with some stones coming from southern England and others from west Wales.

Previous theories have suggested the great stone circle was used as a prehistoric observatory, a sun temple, a place of healing, or a temple of the ancient druids. But research teams from the universities of Sheffield, Manchester, Southampton, Bournemouth and University College London — collectively called the Stonehenge Riverside Project — rejected those theories after studying not just the stones themselves, but also the wider social and economic context of the monument’s main stages of construction around 3,000 BC and 2,500 BC. Continue reading

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