Ancient rite welcomes winter Sat. at Sacra Via Park

Even though winter weather has plagued the area for weeks, the season doesn’t officially start until Saturday.

The Castle in Marietta is hosting a winter solstice watch from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday at Sacra Via Park, between Third and Second streets.

“This is our first year doing it,” said Misti Spillman, Castle education director.

Spillman said it’s interesting to watch the solstice from Sacra Via because those doing so can see how ancient civilizations kept track of time.

“Sacra Via does align with the winter solstice sunset,” said The Castle’s archaeologist Wes Clarke, adding that the pattern was repeated on other earth works around the region.

Clarke said that in order to really appreciate the solstice, the weather had to be just right.

“We have to have a pretty clear day,” Clarke said. “It’s hard to get a clear day right now. I’ll be down (at Sacra Via) whether it’s clear or not.”

The act of time-keeping has been at the root of all cultures for millenia.

According to the British Museum’s website, one of the most common ways to note the passing of time is through observing natural phenomena: the seasons, animal migration and the movement of the sun, moon and stars.

In the past, time-keeping was a way of organizing the immediate and more distant future in order to survive.

The Tourneau luxury watch store’s website offers up a chronology of keeping time: As differences between night and day were observed, moon phases helped mark months, and later changing seasons were used to mark the passing of years.

Eventually, the shadows were used to track sunny hours, which led to the creation of the sundial.

After the formation of a water clock, mechanical parks were added to power it, which led to the invention of the mechanical clock in England.

Today the only existing clocks that predate the 14th century are the St. Paul’s Cathedral clocks in London and Canterbury, England, believed to have been built around 1275.

Practically every aspect of modern life is based around time, even if it’s not recognized.

The Sacra Via solstice celebration will be a unique way to see time being told, according to the Castle’s archaeologist, Wes Clarke.

“(The solstice) is made note of and celebrated and marked by cultures all over the world,” Clarke said. “It signifies the beginning of winter, but also signifies when the sun is farther south.”

Clarke said the solstice helped prehistoric people keep track of time, including the mound builders.

“The mound builders were agriculturalists,” Clarke said. “They planned for planting, as farmers do now. In earlier times, they didn’t have the (technology) we do now.”

Clarke added that there was a modern interest in solstices that people track for a variety of reasons.

Clarke added that if Mother Nature didn’t cooperate Saturday, the solstice could be celebrated again next year.

Clarke said those looking to see the sun line up with Sacra Via should get there before 5 p.m., when the sun usually sets.

“The sun touches the top of the far valley wall at a steep angle,” Clarke said. “It’ll be earlier than the normal sunset time.”

Clarke said there have been other celebrations at other earth works in the region, and Sacra Via’s will be an addition to that.

“The intention is to do it again next year,” Clarke said. “We’ll just try to make it an annual event.”

“I think it’s neat,” Spillman said. “It’s a great way to learn about the history of Marietta and past cultures, and learn about how ancient civilizations kept track of time.”