Skip to comments.Last glimpse inside ancient enigma[UK][Silbury Hill]
Posted on 01/31/2008 8:31:26 AM PST by BGHater
Silbury Hill remains an enigma despite extensive excavations
Inside Silbury Hill
You're in your jouncing people-carrier, taking in the agreeable but unremarkable view, and then suddenly it's upon you; a pointy attention-grabber at the side of the road, towering street furniture in the shape of a hazard-warning equilateral. This is crushing historical time expressed in trigonometry.
Old Egypt hands could be forgiven for thinking that the terrible shark's fin that I'm talking about is the sort of thing that looms in your windshield as you're driving through the suburbs of Cairo.
But they'd be wrong. Or they'd be half-right. Silbury Hill is a pile of chalk just off the A4 in Wiltshire but it's been called "Europe's answer to the pyramids".
There's its silhouette, for a start. Then there's the fact that the tons of calcium carbonate which went to make it were being quarried at about the same time as the pharaonic tombs were going up.
Perhaps the most pertinent similarity is that no one knows exactly how Silbury was built.
Indeed, as you round a bend out of Marlborough and come face to face with the hill, the thought that our distant kin are credited with building something so utterly alien is what immediately connects it with the ziggurats of the Nile delta.
completed about 2350 BC
excavated in 1776, 1849, 1968
No wonder that it's said to have been a clod of earth which fell from the Devil's foot as he flew over the Wessex plains, or a landing beacon for UFOs.
Others maintain that it's the mausoleum of a long-lost monarch. King Sil (hence 'Sil-bury') and that he's interred with a statue of his faithful steed, cast entirely from gold.
In fact, no one's sure what they got up to at Silbury as much as 4,400 years ago, though the latest dig has come out strongly in favour of singing and against sacrifices.
On a bright morning not so long ago, motorists may have seen adepts of early music ascending the 40 metre hill with their horns and their fifes, their skins and their bladders, in order to establish that sound carried from the summit to the plains below.
The hill was a bandstand, at least for some of the time. Later, under Norman rule, it was a lookout post.
There are no signifiers of ritual killings, apparently. Silbury is a very clean site, in the jargon, though not as a clean as it must have been before turf grew over the chalk, when it might have looked from a distance like a mammoth's tusk.
Such are the results of the painstaking proddings and scrapings of English Heritage, who are responsible for the hill.
Earlier prospectors weren't so kid-gloved, sinking a mineshaft into the crown and hacking into the flanks. Locals piled in, hopeful of stumbling upon King Sil's 24-carat nag.
The effects of those clumsy fumblings became apparent a few years ago when a hole opened at the apex of the hill. The tunnelers had disturbed the chalk, creating voids or air holes.
We were the last civilians to walk inside the hill
A great English monument was in danger of falling in on itself like a sagging Yorkshire pudding.
One last excavation was sanctioned and a team from Newsnight joined it in its final stages.
The historians have uncovered arrowheads, and dense, stony antlers which were used as tools.
They now know that Silbury didn't go up all at once but in three stages. Deep inside the hill, beneath up to half a million tonnes of ever so slightly unstable chalk, we goggled at the perfectly preserved fronds of moss which had grown four millennia ago on the slopes of the original mound.
We were the last civilians to walk inside the hill, along its tunnels, beneath groaning beams that wouldn't have been out of place in a gold mine.
That's what impressionable or avaricious people thought Silbury was, of course, though the gilded gee-gee was never recovered, and the latest technology has failed to find any human remains, royal or otherwise.
English Heritage believe that the only way to conserve the hill is to close it up. Miners now labour below ground to pack the chalk and seal it with a special paste. In a few days or weeks, the grail of thousands of years will be beyond reach and Silbury - the great tepee, the big tent, of our woad-striped forefathers - will be restored to enigmatic silence.
One for you guys?
Look! A pile of dirt!
Roman clues found at ancient hill (UK).
BBC | Saturday, March 10, 2007
Posted on 03/10/2007 10:42:54 AM EST by Jedi Master Pikachu
Work Begins To Uncover Secrets Of Silbury Hill
The Telegraph (UK) | 5-12-2007 | Richard Savill
Posted on 05/12/2007 1:43:08 PM EDT by blam
In pictures: Inside Silbury Hill
BBC | Wednesday, October 24, 2007 | unattributed
Posted on 11/03/2007 1:05:42 PM EDT by SunkenCiv
related / also of interest:
Buried Megaliths Discovered At Stone Circle Site (Avebury)
Ananova | 12-2-2003
Posted on 12/02/2003 8:34:50 PM EST by blam
Stonehenge Didn’t Stand Alone, Excavations Show
National Geographic | 1-12-2007 | James Owen
Posted on 01/13/2007 6:00:37 PM EST by blam
Thanks dynachrome.no one's sure what they got up to at Silbury as much as 4,400 years agoNot long after the Giza pyramids.
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"The members of R1b are believed to be the descendants of the first modern humans who entered Europe about 35,000-40,000 years ago ( Aurignacian culture). Those R1b forebearers were the people who painted the beautiful art in the caves in Spain and France. They were the contemporaries (and perhaps exterminators) of the European Neanderthals.
BTW, I'm R1b.
12,000 Years Ago. (After the Ice Age)
Dude! It's a pile of rocks covered with dirt. Don't dis the pile!
So YOU did in the neanderthals!
Where is the endangered species act when ya need it?
Nah. All their women ran off with boys from our clan. Those are the red headed amoungst us.
I’m probably R1b too. My people have been painting themselves blue and running naked into battle since before Stonehenge was built.
Painting themselves blue and running naked, huh? Kinda reminds me of college.
My mtDNA is 'V'. A Skolt Sami of all things.
I’ve not been tested but with 3 of 4 grandparents with Welsh surnames, and my brown hair and green eyes, chances are pretty good I’m R1b. You don’t get much more Welsh than being named Diones (Jones), Mwr (Moore), and Powys (Powers.)
Of course I do. Both my parents and all my aunts and uncles did, too.
Powis (Powys) Castle on your map is our ancestral home. Not that I could just walk in and plop down in front of the fire, mind you.
Neat. ( Atlantic Modal Haplotype)
My R1b, DYS390 is 23, which indicates a Nordic ancestry and we (probably) arrived in the Isles as one of the invading forces, Saxons, Danes or Vikings. My BIL is, R1b, DYS390-24...definately Irish.
They'd probably let me muck out the stables when I visit. If my relatives had been important, they never would have left.
I have the same 'feeling' about mine.
I looked into getting my blood tested a while ago, but can no longer find the link where I read the information... Do you by chance know the link I’m speaking of — it was to participate in some genetic study and I think I ran across the information here at FR?
Anyway, I was born with red hair which I was told fell out and then grew back in blondish as a young child and then has gotten progressively darker as time goes by, all with red highlights underneath though... Also, fair-skinned, freckled, short, and a wee bit stocky (I easily gain muscle-mass when working at it at all). My eldest daughter who looks the most like me has even more red in her hair than I. So, I’m guessing my ancestors were R1b somewhere along the line (I’m adopted, so I don’t know what nationality my ancestors are/were). This stuff is always so fascinating to me.