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The souls of Silbury Hill are bared in burial mound dig

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« on: October 27, 2007, 02:06:59 am »

The souls of Silbury Hill are bared in burial mound dig
By David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent
Published: 25 October 2007
Archaeologists are unlocking the secrets of Silbury Hill, one of Britain's greatest historical mysteries.

Researchers have long been mystified as to why the giant prehistoric mound in Wiltshire was built. But following one of the UK's most extensive and expensive digs, they appear to have found their answer: Silbury Hill may well have been a tomb, not for bodies, but for the souls of the dead.

The English Heritage dig, which cost £1m, tunnelled 85 metres into the 40-metre-high man-made hill, discovering that its Neolithic builders had incorporated hundreds of heavy sarsen stones into its matrix. Sarsen, the silicified sandstone still found in great quantities in Wiltshire, was also used to build Stonehenge and Avebury. Heavier than other types of stone, archaeologists have long suspected that the material was regarded as sacred by Neolithic man.

Stones have been seen by many cultures as spiritually and physically interchangeable with humans – with a belief that particular stones contained the souls, spirits or even the transformed mortal remains of the dead. The belief was widespread, occurring all over the world.

Silbury Hill, researchers believe, could well have been built as a sort of spiritual tomb, filled with spirits rather than skeletons.

"The new information we are obtaining from inside Silbury Hill is transforming our understanding of the site," said the English Heritage archaeologist Jim Leary, who led the three- year investigation. "The discovery of sarsen stones inside the final phase of the monument has also been a surprise. Given the almost certainly religious and ceremonial nature of Silbury, it is likely that these stones had some symbolic importance, potentially representing the spirits of dead ancestors." Radio-carbon tests on the mound have also revealed the age of Silbury Hill for the first time. Archaeologists now believe construction on the primary mound started about 2400BC, which would mean it was built at the same time as Avebury and the first phase of Stonehenge.

Also revealed for the first time is the probable original shape and size of the monument. Excavations at its summit suggest it had a rounded rather than flat top and was five to seven metres higher than today, having almost certainly been flattened in late Saxon or Norman times to accommodate a wooden fortress.

Researchers also now believe Silbury was associated with a form of river-related religious cult. Until the 19th century, the linkage between the Kennet river and Silbury was reflected by an annual local ritual in which water was collected from the main source of the river – the Swallowhead Spring, 200 metres from the monument – before being taken to the top of Silbury where it was mixed with sugar and then drunk.
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Using rocks and minerals to heal the earth and us.

« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2007, 12:51:29 pm »

Words by Dennis Price. Photographs copyright Pete Glastonbury 2006.

In our last journal entry, we highlighted the ongoing work being carried out at the world famous Silbury Hill by the civil engineering firm Skanska, but we were slightly baffled by the company’s intention to “plan & design a new entrance access structure”, as they worded it. We have now received an extremely helpful & courteous response from Mark Kirkbride, Skanska’s Project Manager for the Silbury Hill works.

Mark told us that their reference to planning and designing a new entrance access structure referred to the need to construct a temporary access platform for the tunnelling works at the bottom of the hill that Skanska’s engineers will be undertaking in April 2007. This is intended as a purely temporary structure, which will be completely removed at the end of the tunnel backfilling phase in September 2007. The structure will not be significantly different to the temporary scaffold used recently - it will have a larger deck area and ramp, but it will be removed completely to return Silbury Hill to as near to its original condition as possible.

We’re very grateful to Mark Kirkbride at Skanska for clarifying this matter for us and it is heartening to hear positive news of Silbury Hill’s restoration by a dedicated and professional company who have taken pains to evaluate the hill’s structure and the precise nature of the ruinous excavations carried out there in recent times. It is one thing to be stoic about antiquarians of a previous age hacking into this most famous of prehistoric mounds in the hope of finding treasure, but it is another thing entirely to accept that Atkinson’s vaunted 1968 dig was a model of archaeological professionalism, when there was something clearly very amiss with the late professor’s methods for them to require such large scale remedial action so soon afterwards.

In the next entry, we shall bring you further information concerning specifics of Skanska’s proposals for Silbury Hill, while we shall also be looking into some baffling aspects of Professor Atkinson’s 1968 excavation in some greater depth.
We have added a link to the Southern Eye documentary ‘The Hill with the Hole’ on the right panel for those that missed it when it was first broadcast.

The excavations at Silbury Hill have begun and we will be closely following all developments here at Eternal Idol, while you can see some archive footage or a recent presentation. You’ll have already seen all the press coverage for yourselves, but as far as I was concerned, an article in The Times stood out among the rest, while you can read it for yourselves here, if you wish. The piece, by Simon de Bruxelles, was entitled “Archaeologists try again to find secret of Silbury Hill” - if it wasn’t so sad, it would have made me laugh.

I’m referring to the notion of archaeologists “trying again”, of course, something that’s open to interpretation. Back in 1968, an archaeologist named Professor Richard Atkinson had the backing of the BBC to dig an 80m tunnel into Silbury Hill. This man was of such high standing in the world of archaeology that he had already been given unfettered access to Stonehenge for fifteen years or so, so when he dug into Silbury Hill, he already had an absolute wealth of experience behind him as far as the study of unique British prehistoric monuments was concerned.

However, as Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology, observes in the same piece in the Times “It’s remarkable how little we know about the 1968 dig, as the work was never written up.” Nor, for that matter, was much of what Atkinson unearthed at Stonehenge. As Mike Pitts observes on pages 2 and 3 of Hengeworld “Atkinson first dug at Stonehenge in 1950, and continued on and off into the sixties…and yet over all those years Atkinson analysed and published but bare fraction of what he dug up”. Still, this didn’t stop him being let loose on Silbury Hill afterwards with even worse results, because while certain parts of Stonehenge were stabilised, Silbury Hill was left in danger of collapse for nearly forty years.

Given the keen eye that Atkinson was supposed to possess, it’s difficult to see how he didn’t glean many of Silbury Hill’s secrets as he inspected every inch of a tunnel two hundred and sixty feet long into the centre of the mound, while as you can see elsewhere on this site, the tunnel was large enough to accommodate mechanised earth-moving equipment with human drivers. I’m no mathematician, but if you spread out the entire surface area of those parts of Silbury Hill that were exposed during Atkinson’s foray, it amounts to a very, very big glimpse indeed into the heart of this prehistoric construction.

The Times’ piece observes how the BBC cut short the project when no tomb was found at the centre of hill, with the result that “With the funding gone, much of the follow-up work, including examination of the few finds that had been made, was never completed.” Now, just how much funding does it require for an archaeologist of Atkinson’s apparent standing to examine a few finds? Most archaeologists I’ve ever worked with would be blissfully happy to carry out such work for free. Here was someone who was so patently mesmerised by the prospect of digging into the bowels of monuments erected by people who were in his words “practically savages ‘ howling barbarians”, that he spent decades doing little else. I suspect that many of the secrets of Silbury Hill were brought to light almost forty years ago, but the man who discovered them chose to keep silent. In the next year, 1969, we would learn more about the distant Moon after a visit of just a few days than we did about the interior of an artificial hill in Wiltshire. Apparently.

Referring to the 2007 excavations and what may be available for inspection inside Silbury Hill, Dr Robert Bewley, regional director of English Heritage, said “This will probably be the best chance this generation will get to find those answers.” If this does prove to be the case, let’s just hope that whoever makes these discoveries doesn’t have the same secretive and destructive agenda as the late Professor Richard Atkinson.

"The shadow of Silbury Hill" Steve Marshall

« Last Edit: October 27, 2007, 01:13:29 pm by rockessence » Report Spam   Logged


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