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Jun 21, 6:31 AM EDT

Thousands at Stonehenge mark summer solstice

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AP Photo/Tim Ireland

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LONDON (AP) -- Thousands of revelers, new-agers and self-styled Druids descended on the ancient stone circle at Stonehenge on Sunday, catching a brief glimpse of the sun as they marked the summer solstice - the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere.

About 23,000 sun-watchers gathered on the Salisbury Plain about 80 miles (130 kilometers) southwest of London, police said. But with the sun visible only briefly, the party was markedly shorter than in past years. Authorities reported nine arrests for drug offenses - fewer than in the past.

Visitors kissed the stones, dancers swirled on the grass and drummers pounded as part of the free-form celebrations. A small group of yoga enthusiasts held a short class and couples renewed their commitments to one another.

Stonehenge is an icon of Britain, and one of its most popular attractions. It was built in three phases between 3,000 B.C. and 1,600 B.C. and its purpose remains under study.

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