Humans have long viewed the sun as a crucial part of life. Many early civilizations such as ancient Egypt and Rome, as well as the Japanese and the Maya, even deified the sun. It was so revered by the Neolithic people of modern-day England, in fact, that it’s believed they may have built Stonehenge to frame the rising sun on the summer solstice and the sunset on the winter solstice.
Starting about 5,000 years ago, the prehistoric monument was constructed in several stages on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England. Without any written record, many theories about the origin and purpose of the mysterious monolith have emerged over the years. One of the most plausible is that Stonehenge was built as an astronomical observatory to help mark the seasons. On the winter solstice, the sun currently falls behind one of the site’s several trilithons — a structure consisting of two vertical stones with a horizontal one across the top — creating a picture-perfect framing. Although some of the rocks have fallen over the years, affecting the current view, laser surveys have all but confirmed that Stonehenge was designed in relation to the path of the sun on the solstice. On the winter solstice, the sun also sets perfectly in line with an individual stone known as the Heel Stone, about 100 feet away from the main site. On the summer solstice, the sun rises over the Heel Stone.