Call it the biggest night lighting uproar since Wrigley Field: Fans of Stonehenge are squaring off over whether to illuminate England’s world-famous prehistoric stone circle after sunset.
In a letter to the Times newspaper supporting the idea, Lady Mimi Pakenham wrote, “The magic of Stonehenge could be shared every evening with all who pass, many of whom can’t afford a ticket, just as it was a magical place thousands of years ago, sometimes with the Moon and clouds shining as well.”
She even gave the possibility a renewable energy twist. Although there seemed to be no mention of energy efficient LED lighting, she did invoke the sun, a sacred object to Stonehenge fanatics who flock to the site for solstice celebrations.
“With subtle lighting sunk well out of view and endless possibilities of solar energy, the monumental power of ancient man’s achievement in another age would inspire all who pass by,” she wrote, as reported by The Telegraph. (The Times requires a subscription fee).
But the idea horrifies others.
In a debate with Pakenham on BBC radio this morning, University of Leicester professor Clive Ruggles pointed out that Stonehenge is “iconic of the connection between prehistoric monuments and the sky.”
Ruggles teaches archaeostronomy - the study of how ancient cultures looked upwards. “If you ask people about prehistoric monuments and ancient astronomy in one breath, chances are they’ll think Stonehenge,” he noted. He also said that keeping Stonehenge as dark as possible is “part and parcel” to restoring it to its landscape.
Pakenham said any lighting scheme could be flexible and wouldn’t necessarily stream light constantly throughout the night.
We all know which side won the night light fight at the iconic ballpark on Chicago’s north side 20-plus years ago, although even there they exercise restraint.
But this is England, where history doesn’t give way to modernity as readily as it does in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave and Thomas Edison.
Still, it might be time to get ready for Druid bobblehead night in the countryside 90 miles southwest of London.
Photo: garethwiscombe/Flickr via Wikipedia