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June Solstice

June 21, 2015

Summer arrives in the northern hemisphere today. The Sun stands farthest north for the entire year, bringing long, hot days.

Today, the solstice is just another date on the calendar — something people might not even notice unless they see a tweet about it. In ages past, though, solstices played a key role in the lives of villages and entire regions. They were times for religious ceremonies, festivals, or other events.

A site in Peru, for example, seems to have been built to mark the June solstice, which is the start of winter in the southern hemisphere.

The site is in the Chincha Valley, a desert region that was between thriving communities along the coast and in the mountains. It consists of several large mounds, piles of rocks, and long, straight lines on the desert floor. The lines are similar to those found at Nazca, which also depict animals and other figures. But recent research says the lines at Chincha were created about 2300 years ago — several hundred years before those at Nazca.

Researchers have found several alignments with the point at which the Sun set on the June solstice. These alignments include the lines on the desert floor, as well as U-shaped mounds and other structures.

The researchers speculate that the site was a gathering place for villages from the coast to the mountains. Perhaps they came together at the solstice to trade, celebrate, or give thanks to the gods — a gathering timed to the motions of the Sun.


Script by Damond Benningfield, Copyright 2015

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