Hundreds Watch Solstice Sunset at Prehistoric Site

Hundreds Watch Solstice Sunset at Prehistoric Site

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Hundreds of people gathered Saturday night at the Parowan Gap in southwestern Utah to view the solstice sunset as ancient Indians are believed to have done for thousands of years.

Every year on June 21 the sun sets perfectly in the middle of a "V" shaped break in a mountain ridge at the gap 12 miles northwest of Parowan.

The formation is believed to be a sacred astronomical landmark for ancient Indians to mark when the sun sets at its northernmost point on the horizon.

Nal Morris, a former NASA physicist who teaches archaeo-astronomy and archaeology at Utah Valley State College, said it was important for the prehistoric people to know the seasons for planting crops and even for determining the best times to conceive.

Morris delivered a lecture at dusk Saturday to about 300 people who gathered at the site surrounded by sandstone slabs that are etched with petroglyphs, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Nancy Dalton, event chairwoman and member of the Parowan Heritage Foundation, said the group started the event seven years ago as an activity to educate Parowan's museum and visitor center volunteers.

"The volunteers had such a good time that the foundation decided to host the event on an annual basis as a method to inform and increase awareness of the historic value and knowledge contained at the Parowan Gap," she said.

On Friday night about 60 yoga students from the Inner Harmony Yoga Retreat Center near Brian Head arrived at the gap. As the sun set, they danced in a field.

Friday's group of students were also celebrating their last day at the retreat before a new group arrived.

"They realized that this is a spiritual place," said John Epert, director of Inner Harmony. "We came down here to honor that."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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