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Sunday, 27 October 2013

Saving Silbury Hill - a talk by Chris Penny on the 24th of October


Despite it being my daughter's birthday last Thursday, I managed to be at the singing and candle blowing out part of the celebrations and was then surplus to requirements, and was very pleased I had managed to hear  Chris's talk on Silbury Hill, he's such an enthusiast and knows so much about neolithic features in the landscape. He also has been associated with Avebury and Stonehenge since 1991, and now looks after 241 National Trust volunteers.
What we learned was that Silbury Hill is the largest man made mound in the world in the prehistoric period, it's the most labour intensive as well, 500,000 tons of chalk were used in its construction between 2400-2300BC. It sits in the centre of a Roman complex and was probably constructed in the area because there are 187 springs around Avebury providing water for the settlements. It is thought it was possibly built for ceremonial or religious reasons, but this is pure speculation, no one really knows for certain why Silbury Hill was constructed.but there are no artefacts inside.
The Anglo Saxons cut the top off Silbury Hill to make a fort, it measures 70 feet across, and is 36metres high and the base covers 5 acres.
Excavations have been made into Silbury Hill to find out what is inside and maybe gain insight into why it was built. Firstly in 1776, Cornish miners drilled a hole into the top, then in 1849, John Merryweather tunneled into Silbury Hill; this was repeated in 1968 when a 250 foot long tunnel which was 6 foot wide and 8 foot high.
 And here's a photo of the tunnel:

 The BBC hoped it would become a tourist attraction, but English Heritage wanted it filled in. The tunnel was poorly filled in leaving voids in 1968.
In 2001 a hole opened up in the top of Silbury Hill, previous excavations and tunnel making had made the hill potentially unstable, and here's a photo of the hole in the top of Silbury Hill:

 There are very few Neolithic finds, as is the case with the stone circle, these sites are called 'clean sites' because of this. Dating for the completion of Silbury Hill as 2300BC came from the finding of a strategically placed antler; there are artefacts from the Roman and Anglo Saxon periods.
 It has now been restored and is now stable and should stand in the landscape forever.
Many thanks again to Chris for coming in to give us such an interesting and informative talk, and thank you very much Chris for the great photos of the tunnel and the collapsed top of Silbury Hill.


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