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A new theory on Silbury Hill

27 October 2010

At http://heritage-key.com/blogs/ann/silbury-hills-true-story-construction-process-was-more-important-than-design/ … it seems the author of this piece has taken up the meme that it was the construction process that was important – not the finished monument. This rather weird deduction is made out of desperation it could be argued but bear with the facts – after all a book has been written on the new theory. It does not occur to them that what was being honoured by Silbury Hill was a changing phenomenon – in the sky. Hence, adjustments were required as the ediface was being built – but that is simply one possibility, of many. In spite of this the article is worth reading as it describes the kind of tweaks and architectural features that may in the long term be important for our understanding of Silbury Hill. It seems the hill as we now see it was built over a 100 year period between roughly 2400-2300BC – although we may assume a smaller hill pre-existed the one we see now. The mound, as that is what it is, entirely man-made, is not perfectly round and in fact the base appears to be octagonal. It is also thought a spiral pathway on a ledge wound its way around the hill, seven times including the summit. The spiral is of course a common Neolithic symbol on rocks and pottery etc. In the Roman period there was a settlement of some kind nearby and in the Medieval period the top of the hill was flattened for the purpose of a building – purpose unknown. English Heritage have published a new book, The Story of Silbury Hill, which has all the latest discoveries and insights. The book is associated with the new theory – Silbury Hill was not a single construction project and the builders did not have a particular blueprint in mind but instead the mound was built as part of a continuous storytelling ritual and the importance of the shape as we now see it is unimportant. If so why are there so many similar structures?

Analysis of material composition of the mound has revealed that chalk, stones, and gravel were consistently used in an ordered fashion and combined in different ways to yield discrete patterns, textures and colours. I wonder if this analysis was done on a computer? Antler picks, gravels, chalk and stones occur in what look like layers which might suggest such materials had a symbolic meaning of some kind – or were an integral part of the story-myth we might add. The authors suggests they had a symbolical meaning – but the question is, what? 

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