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Stonehenge To Be Open for Solstice

June 19, 2000

LONDON (AP) _ For the first time in 16 years, the public will be able to greet the dawn of the summer _ the first of the new millennium _ at the ancient stone circle of Stonehenge.

But fearing a return of the unruly revelers who have defiled the monument in the past, site owners English Heritage have agreed to open the stones for just eight hours, starting Tuesday night.

Security will be tight at the site on Salisbury plain, 80 miles southwest of London. And camping, fires, dogs and amplified music will be forbidden.

Stonehenge, a double circle of large stones erected by prehistoric Britons 5,000 years ago, became a popular spot for solstice celebrations in the late 1980s, when pagan worshippers flocked to the site to perform age-old ceremonies.

In 1988, a group of 4,000 revelers tried to break police lines to join the white-robed druids. Following clashes, nine people were injured and 70 arrested.

Two years ago, 100 people were allowed to attend the solstice by prior arrangement, an event which proved peaceful. But last year riot police had to be called in after gatecrashers pushed down fences and clambered on the stones.

Druids, for whom the solstice is the holiest day of the year, believe Stonehenge was a center for pre-Christian and astronomical worship and therefore consider it a sacred site.

English Heritage has said it will decide whether to open the stones for future solstices after seeing how people behave this year.

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