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 Location: Wiltshire, England. (O/S - SU 100 685).  Grid Reference: 51 24 50 N, 1 51' 24" W.

 

      Silbury Hill: (Conical Pyramid)

Silbury Hill, England. (ancient-wisdom.co.uk)The largest artificial earth mound (pyramid) in Europe.

Conical in shape, and rising to a height of 130 ft, with a circular base more than 200 yards in diameter and a flattened top. Its total volume has been estimated at 400,000 cubic feet. Excavations at the top and sides have revealed no skeletal or funerary remains. There are indications that a large pole may have once topped the hill. (1)

The flattened top is 100ft in diameter, the same as the exterior diameter of the Stonehenge sarsen stones.

(Click here for Map of site)

 

 

  Physical Description of Silbury:

Silbury Hill is a part of the complex of Neolithic monuments around Avebury in Wiltshire (which also includes the West Kennet long barrow and the Sanctuary). It reveals an immense technical skill and a prolonged control over labour and resources. Archaeologists calculate that Silbury Hill took 18 million man-hours to dump and shape 248,000 cubic metres (8.75 million cubic ft) of earth on top of a natural hill. The base of the monument is 167m (550ft) in diameter and it is perfectly round. Its summit is flat-topped and 30m (100ft) wide (The same as the Sarsen circle at Stonehenge). 

(More about the Salisbury Complex)

 

The Silbury 'Moat':

The area immediately surrounding the monument is lower than the level of the land around it. The presence of natural springs offers the suggestion that in the past the lowered area may have been filled in with water on occasion creating a 'moat' effect similar to that once surrounding Glastonbury Tor.

Extract From British Archaeology, Issue 70, 2003 -

'Archaeologists have come to see that ditches, even massive ditches around henges or hillforts, need not always be just utilitarian structures but may have had a metaphysical function too - for example, to keep evil spirits at bay. The rectangular extension at Silbury, if water-filled, would have served as a cistern or reservoir. Elsewhere in the world, cisterns have often been the focus of ritual and ceremony. The mirror-like quality of standing water may have had symbolic implications too.

For just three days in early summer 2001, as the water-filled ditch dried out, a huge vegetation mark, straight-edged and some 10m wide, appeared to extend across the ditch floor for some 50m towards the mound. Its orientation, however, was curious, running diagonally across the ditch extension towards a position off-centre of the mound. The feature definitely seems man-made. It may be that the hill's Neolithic builders dug a deeper channel here to collect water from local springs and bring it to the deep ditch encircling the mound.

It seems likely, then, that Silbury Hill's ditches were intentionally filled with water. Furthermore, the hill itself was built next to water, close to the River Kennet. The siting of this monumental mound in a valley - so that its summit barely attains the level of the surrounding hilltops - has often raised comment. Why not build higher up? The answer must be that the place itself was as important as the mound.' (4)

 

 

   The Function of Silbury:

Being the largest prehistoric mound of its kind in Europe, we can assume that the construction of this hill was one of the most important undertakings of its time but we are often reminded that there have been no discoveries of funerary remains, chambers or any other evidence that might explain its construction so how are we to explain the presence of this monumental structure?

Geographically, the mound sits in dip in the landscape, almost disguised by the surrounding folds in the hills, yet its specific location must have been an important consideration so it is likely for some reason that this was a deliberate choice. At the same time, we are reminded that the hill would have originally been white from the chalk which would have made the hill shine like a beacon to those who could see her. A White covering is also suspected on the three henges at the Thornborough Complex in Yorkshire suggestive of a ceremonial function.

Although there are several other significant prehistoric structures in the area (including the largest stone circle in the world at Avebury), they sit in effective isolation from each other. It is only from the top of the adjacent Wodin hill that they can be viewed together, and a glimpse of the larger ceremonial landscape can be imagined.

 

Silbury as the 'Primal Mound':

The large conical mounds found across UK have been suggested as representing the 'Primal Mound'. The concept of the primal mound is related to creation myths concerning the origin of mankind itself. Several other cultures such as Egyptian, Indian and Sumerian have references to 'Primal mounds' which were all said to have emerged from the watery chaos of the 'First time'. In the Egyptian mythology, Atum was considered both the creator and the destroyer and the primal mound itself, represented by the 'Ben-ben' and later through Obelisks and Pyramids.

The most significant 'Primal' mounds in Uk - such as Silbury, Glastonbury and Maes Howe all share an association with water. It is now a common belief that Silbury Hill was built deliberately so as to be permanently surrounded by water. Similarly, Glastonbury was surrounded by water when it was first in use during the Neolithic.

The Passage mound of Maes Hill offers another interesting aspect of these purported mounds which is that they are commonly associated with one or two prominent nearby stone circles. Examples of this include Newgrange (surrounded by a stone circle), Gavr'inis in France (With the twin circles of Er-Lannic directly in front), and Ggantija on the island of Gozo (Malta). Silbury Hill lies directly south of Avebury, and less than a kilometre away.

(More about Primal Mounds and Stone circles)

 

Silbury as the Earth-Mother:

The main advocate of this theory is Michael Dames, who wrote in the 70's of his theory that Silbury hill was constructed to represent the pregnant figure of the Earth-mother itself. Dames became aware that the outline formed by the moat surrounding Silbury resembled other prehistoric images of the Earth-mother.

In order to support his claim, Dames presented evidence of other examples of Earth-mother profiles in ancient construction. In particular he mentions both the Maltese temples and the dwellings on the Orkneys, which have been noted for their anthropomorphic outlines. Perhaps even more significant is that recent discoveries have revealed that dwellings near Silbury were shaped anthropomorphically too.

The Maltese Temples show a distinct similarity to the outline of the Earth-Mother

(More about the Earth-Mother-Earth)

 

Silbury as a Geodetic Marker:

Silbury Hill was built on a latitude with a geometric significance, as were several other prominent prehistoric structures. In Egypt, it is now realised that the temple complexes were located according to 'geodetic' principles, an it appears that the same can be said of many of the European megalithic complexes. Both Karnak (Thebes) and Giza/Heliopolis in Egypt were located on  latitudes which can be shown to have a geometric foundation. If one divides the northern hemisphere into seven equal units (i.e. 90/7), it can be seen that Karnak (Thebes), was placed on the second division, Delphi on the third and Silbury Hill on the fourth.

In addition,  the same geometry can be seen in the exterior angles of the pyramids of Giza. For example, the latitude of Silbury hill is mirrored in the exterior angle of Menkaures pyramid, and it is perhaps no coincidence that the exterior angle of Silbury hill is the same as the latitude of Giza. At present, such information is brushed off by most researchers as pure coincidence, but it is possible to see an extension of this geometry in the other Giza pyramids, and at other significant prehistoric locations.

(The Salisbury Complex)

(More about English Geodesy)     (Geodesy Homepage)     (More about Egyptian Geodesy)

 

Silbury as a Beacon Hill:

Silbury hill is just one in a line of natural and artificial mounds along the St. Michael's ley, which itself has a strong association with astronomy. Not only does the St. Michaels leyline pass both Glastonbury and Silbury Hill, but it also passes other similar features along the way such as the 'Barrow mump' and the 'Marlborough mound', both very significant structures, and both suspected of having Neolithic provenance.

The tradition of burning beacons on hill tops to mark particular days is well understood in England and there are numerous examples of 'Beacon hills' and artificially flatten hill-tops reminding us that the practice was important in connecting both the landscape and the people together with solar and lunar cycles.

(More about the St. Michael's Ley-line)

 

Although we are left with no clear idea as to the original purpose of Silbury, we do know that it was built  after other sites in the area such as Avebury and West-Kennet which could mean that it was built simply to reinforce the sanctity of the area so that while there is no questioning its importance in the prehistoric landscape, the debate over its actual function will have to remain academic until our understanding of the Neolithic mind improves.

 

 

Chronology:

Silbury hill internal structure

Silbury hill is estimated to have been constructed around 2,600 - 2,400 BC. It is now suggested that the construction took two phases: soon after work was started, a re-design was ordered, and the mound enlarged. It is constructed in steps, each step being filled in with packed chalk, and then smoothed off.

Two small trenches cut on the summit revealed a fragment of antler from a secure context, lying against a chalk wall in a deposit of chalk rubble. This produced a secure radiocarbon date of between 2490-2340 BC, placing the mound firmly in the Late Neolithic (4).

 

 

 

   Excavations at Silbury:

There have been three major excavations of the mound: the first when a team of Cornish miners led by the Duke of Northumberland sunk a shaft from top to bottom in 1776, another in 1849 when a tunnel was dug from the edge into the centre, and a third in 1968-70 when professor Richard Atkinson had another tunnel cut into the base. Nothing of any significance has ever been found on Silbury Hill: at its core there is only clay, flints, turf, moss, topsoil, gravel, freshwater shells, mistletoe, oak, hazel, sarsen stones, ox bones, and antler tines.

In 1969 Prof. Richard Atkinson attracted a great deal of interest as he attempted to reveal the secrets of Silbury Hill near Marlborough. Such was his enthusiasm, he even agreed to the BBC showing the dig on TV! The BBC were present at Silbury for three seasons. Atkinson and his team followed the line of an earlier tunnel, dug in 1849 by Dean John Merewether but found nothing new about the site.

Archaeological excavations (2007)...

Following the appearance of a hole in the top in 2000, English Heritage began to organise an excavation to explore and repair the Hill.

The cause of the hole was determined to be a collapse from the unsatisfactory back-fill from earlier excavations. It was decided to enter the tunnel dug by a team of archaeologists in 1968 and back-fill it with chalk, also filling in the voids created during the various excavations of the mound since the 1776 tomb-raiding exploits of the Duke of Northumberland.

A seismic survey was commissioned by National Heritage in February 2002. it showed that the hill was stable, and unlikely to suffer any further serious collapse. It also showed that before it was covered over and smoothed, it had been built in the shape of a spiral, probably to assist in the construction process. This same design has recently been determined to have been used to construct the Great pyramid of Giza. (Ref: English Heritage)

silbury hill, england

Porta-cabin compound at base of Silbury hill (2007).

Silbury Hill, England.

Work compound and light machinery on top of Silbury-Hill (2007).

'The most enigmatic find is sarsen stones, the same stone as in nearby Avebury and Stonehenge, carefully incorporated in every stage, some which would have taken two men to drag up to the very top of the mound'. (3)

Atkinson's original research papers were investigated for clues but it was found that the detailed plans of what Atkinson and Taylor found when they reached the centre of the mound were missing from the archive. (5)

 

 

   Other Aspects of Silbury:

 

Tradition and Myth:

According to legend, this is the last resting place of King Sil. Another legend states that the mound holds a life-size solid gold statue of King Sil and yet a third, that the Devil was carrying an apron of soil to drop on the citizens of Marlborough, but he was stopped by the priests of nearby Avebury.

 

Astronomy:

 

Silbury hill sits on the St. Michaels ley-line which crosses the longest stretch of England on the azimuth of the may-day sunrise or 'Beltane', a quarter-cross day marking the first day of summer and the midway point between the spring equinox and the summer solstice.  

 

The suggestion that a pole may have once topped the hill, is an indication that the site could have served as a means of determining the time of year (i.e. by the shadow cast), a similar theory to that proposed for the pyramids of Egypt by Davidson (2).

 

 

silbury hill, England.

From the top of nearby Waden/Wodin hill, it is possible to see how the setting may-day sun would have been viewed as it set below both the horizon line and apparently into Silbury simultaneously.

 

 

Geometric Alignments:

 

The Silbury/Avebury complex  together with Stonehenge and Glastonbury, combine to form a right angled triangle across the English landscape. The Hypotenuse is formed by the St. Michael's ley-line, which crosses England along the zenith of the May-day sun.

Avebury sits exactly 1/4 of a degree north of Stonehenge.

 

 

 

   Gallery of Images:

 

West Kennet and Silbury Hill.

In this photo it is possible to see how the eastward facing West Kennet long-barrow and the top of Silbury Hill are on the same elevation (along with Wodin hill).

 

(Avebury)   (West Kennet Long Barrow)   (The Sanctuary

(The Salisbury Complex)

(British Geodesy)

(Other Prehistoric English sites)

 

References:

1) Rene Noorbergen. Secrets of the Lost Races. 1977. New English Library.
2). D. Davidson & H. Aldersmith. The Great Pyramid: It's Devine Message. 1924. Williams and Norgate.
3). http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/2007/oct/25/heritage.art
4). http://www.britarch.ac.uk/ba/ba70/feat2.shtml
5). http://www.bbc.co.uk/wiltshire/content/articles/2005/12/05/pwaod_silbury_feature.shtml
 

 

 
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