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Silbury Hill - what is it?


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#1    jazzrequest

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Posted 11 April 2006 - 11:08 PM

This has been bugging me for years. In Wiltshire there's an enormous man made mound called Silbury Hill - much bigger than any burial mound. I think it's more than 2000 years old. There's nothing else like it in England (at least, not on that scale) and its purpose seems to be a mystery.
Years ago, I read a report from the Chronicle TV program (fantastic TV prog, why was it ever axed?!) which asked much the same questions. The mound has never been satisfactoraly excavated (it's just too big - the summit doubles as a cricket field!) but from what they could discover, it's an enigma. It seems to be solid, i.e no hollow chamber, and built like a step pyramid, i.e in 'tiers' of chalk or stone, before being covered with earth to give it its smooth profile. It stands alone on a great plain and tho' I've never seen it the photos are awesome!
The step pyramid similarity seems to be significant to me, but there are no other structures like it anywhere - as far as I know - in the UK. Also, it seems to be solid. Of course, geophysics has made enormous advances since that Chronicle doc of the early 70's. But aside from that one report I've never heard anything more. Can anyone enlighten me on this? Has it ever been explored using modern geophys methods and, if so, what was found? Have there been any theories put forward as to its purpose? I know one theory was it marked the burial place of a great king (altho he'd have to be a giant!) and I wonder if the mound does cover a burial chamber, located underground. But WHY though? Then again,  it's not too far from Stonehenge which again is unique in the UK, so is it possible both had the same architect?
Whatever, I think this definitely comes under the heading of 'Mysteries of the ancient world' so please, someone, put me out of my mystery misery! bounce.gif




#2    Pilgrim_Shadow

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Posted 11 April 2006 - 11:44 PM

Quote


This has been bugging me for years. In Wiltshire there's an enormous man made mound called Silbury Hill - much bigger than any burial mound. I think it's more than 2000 years old. There's nothing else like it in England (at least, not on that scale) and its purpose seems to be a mystery.
Years ago, I read a report from the Chronicle TV program (fantastic TV prog, why was it ever axed?!) which asked much the same questions. The mound has never been satisfactoraly excavated (it's just too big - the summit doubles as a cricket field!) but from what they could discover, it's an enigma. It seems to be solid, i.e no hollow chamber, and built like a step pyramid, i.e in 'tiers' of chalk or stone, before being covered with earth to give it its smooth profile. It stands alone on a great plain and tho' I've never seen it the photos are awesome!
The step pyramid similarity seems to be significant to me, but there are no other structures like it anywhere - as far as I know - in the UK. Also, it seems to be solid. Of course, geophysics has made enormous advances since that Chronicle doc of the early 70's. But aside from that one report I've never heard anything more. Can anyone enlighten me on this? Has it ever been explored using modern geophys methods and, if so, what was found? Have there been any theories put forward as to its purpose? I know one theory was it marked the burial place of a great king (altho he'd have to be a giant!) and I wonder if the mound does cover a burial chamber, located underground. But WHY though? Then again,  it's not too far from Stonehenge which again is unique in the UK, so is it possible both had the same architect?
Whatever, I think this definitely comes under the heading of 'Mysteries of the ancient world' so please, someone, put me out of my mystery misery! bounce.gif


"There have been several excavations of the mound and William Stukeley wrote that a skeleton and bridle had been discovered during tree planting on the summit in 1723. It is probable that this was a later, secondary burial however. The first purposeful excavation came when a team of Cornish miners led by the Duke of Northumberland sunk a shaft from top to bottom in 1776. This was followed in 1849 when a tunnel was dug from the edge into the centre. Others were held in 1867, 1886 and William Flinders Petrie investigated the hill after the First World war. In 1968-70 professor Richard Atkinson undertook work at Silbury in front of BBC television cameras. This last work revealed most of the environmental evidence known about the site including the remains of winged ants which indicate Silbury was begun in August.

Atkinson dug numerous trenches at the site and reopened the 1849 tunnel, finding material suggesting a Neolithic date although none of his radiocarbon dates are considered reliable by modern standards. He argued that the hill was constructed in steps, each tier being filled in with packed chalk, and then smoothed off or weathered into a slope. Others have identified a spiralling path climbing to the top and prefer to see the construction as being more incremental with the benefit of also providing a processional route to the summit.

Few prehistoric artefacts have 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. Roman and medieval items have been found on and around the site since the nineteenth century and it seems that the hill was reoccupied by later peoples.

In 2000, a collapse of the 1776 excavation shaft caused a hole to form in the top of the hill. English Heritage undertook a seismic survey of the hill to identify the damage caused by earlier excavations and determine the hill's stability. Repairs were undertaken though the site remains closed to the public. English Heritage's archaeologists also excavated two further small trenches as part of the remedial work and made the important discovery of an antler fragment, the first from a secure context at the site. This produced a reliable radiocarbon date of c. 2490-2340 BC, dating the second mound convincingly to the Late Neolithic. Other recent work has focused on the role of the surrounding ditch which may not have been a simple source of chalk for the hill but a purposeful water-filled barrier placed between the hill and the rest of the world."

From the Wikipedia article:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silbury_Hill

It would seem that the purpose of the hill is not yet known. There have been precious few artifacts found, giving us little to go on. What there is, is a great deal of is rumor and conjecture. However, long story short: no one knows.

As to the Stonehenge connection, it seems unlikely, but it is possible, to the extent that some of the stonehenge work has been dated to roughly the same period as the second mound (the mound is believed to have been built in two phases). However, parts of stonehenge are actually much older. It too is believed to have been constructed in phases. However, this could be coincidence, as sites of ritual importance would likely be used, reused, and improved over the centuries. There is no direct evidence linking Silbury to stonehenge.

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This land of Eldorado?"

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Of the moon,
Down the valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride!"
The shade replied,
"If you seek for Eldorado!"

#3    Foxe

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 12:18 PM

A couple of small misconceptions: The summit of Silbury hill is not the size of a cricket pitch, though an ersatz game might be played there. However, the hill is not just unique to the UK, it is the largest prehistoric man-made mound in the world. In terms of location the hill is much more connected to the Avebury complex than to Stonehenge.

Since 2000 archaeology has been ongoing intermittently and it can reasonably hoped that our knowledge of the hill will be increased over the coming years - it's unlikely we'll get much in the way of definite answers, but we should have a better understanding. One of the most incredible facts about the hill is that although it cannot be dated precisely to any particular year or years, we can tell at what time of year certain phases of the building took place by the stages which insects trapped in the mound had reached in their life-cycle.

The purpose of the hill remains a complete enigma, despite several fanciful theories.

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#4    Roj47

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 01:00 PM

Quote


The purpose of the hill remains a complete enigma, despite several fanciful theories.


I would be most interested to know of the theories (but possible and well.... other).

Maybe we could create a few of our own also?

Posted Image
Posted Image

#5    louie

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 05:33 PM

Anybody know is it aligned to the winter or summer solaciste or a star constlation....

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#6    R3LOAD

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 05:36 PM

do any of you have links to some pictures?



#7    Tengu

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 05:49 PM

here are some pictures. I googled it for some images. Quite interesting that they seem to be finding crop circles near it too for some reason...

Pic1
Pic2
Hill with crop circles
More crop circles near Silbury Hill

I myself have never heard of this place before. But it does seem very very interesting

Edited by Tengu, 12 April 2006 - 05:50 PM.

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#8    R3LOAD

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 09:50 PM

its huge



#9    Foxe

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 10:11 PM

user posted image

This is Silbury Hill taken from nearby West Kennet Long Barrow last December.

I've seen a few crop circles in the general Avebury area over the years.

There are as many theories about Silbury Hill as you can imagine. The oldest theory is that it was a giant burial mound (the are is littered with tumuli and barrows), for a great king named Sil. Even if the Sil theory is discounted many people believe that it was a burial mound of sorts. One of the more recent theories was based on the superficial resemblance of the hill and its surrounding moat to prehistoric statues thought to be of the Earth mother, with the hill representing the womb and the moat the rest of the body. However, the resemblance was superficial at best, and could only be seen from the air anyway (prehistoric peoples were notorious for not having developed air travel), so the theory is not a good one, despite its obvious attraction. Other theories abound... aliens, shipwrecked Egyptians, it was done for a bet...

One thing we can tell; it's not aligned to anything, it's a big circular mound in the middle of Salisbury Plain.

Edited by Foxe, 12 April 2006 - 10:13 PM.

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#10    Dakotabre

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Posted 12 April 2006 - 11:10 PM

CLICK THIS LINK IT'S ABOUT SALISBURY HILL BUT IF YOU GO ABOUT A QUARTER OF THE WAY DOWN THE PAGE- IT HAS A WEBCAM ON THE SCREEN OF THE HILL AND YOU CAN MOVE THE CAMERA AROUND, ZOOM IN AND OUT ETC...  PRETTY COOL!!


WEBCAM OF SALISBURY HILL - (1/4 way down page) Click picture with your mouse and move it aroun.....  wink2.gif

http://www.users.myisp.co.uk/~gtour/main.htm



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#11    Oppono Astos

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Posted 13 April 2006 - 11:33 AM

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its huge

Although I've never actually done the calculation, and it may be a myth... If the Great Pyramid at Giza were a hollow shell, it would precisely fit over Silbury Hill - those of you who watch Stargate will get the idea  wink2.gif

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#12    Pilgrim_Shadow

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Posted 13 April 2006 - 11:46 AM

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Although I've never actually done the calculation, and it may be a myth... If the Great Pyramid at Giza were a hollow shell, it would precisely fit over Silbury Hill - those of you who watch Stargate will get the idea  wink2.gif


Sounds like a myth. I have not run the numbers myself, but a) the hill's base is round, and cool.gif the top of the hill is truncated. Thus, the best that we could say is that the hill might fit inside the pyramid, again if it were hollow (which it isn't). There are many, many hills, both natural and manmade, that would be small enough to fit inside the great pyramid, so this is not truly very compelling.

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"Where can it be,
This land of Eldorado?"

"Over the mountains
Of the moon,
Down the valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride!"
The shade replied,
"If you seek for Eldorado!"

#13    Oppono Astos

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Posted 13 April 2006 - 05:28 PM

Yeah, I meant the angle, slope and height etc, not a 'jelly mould' fit  wink2.gif

Don't forget Silbury's semi-twin mound at Marlborough (possibly a derivation from Merlin's barrow), about 7km from Silbury; this is known as Merlin's Mound, and stands in the grounds of Marlborough college.  Unlike Silbury the spiral form is very prominent, although unlike Silbury is it tree-covered, so its form isn't so easy to discern.  See here for more details, or try "merlins mound marlborough" in Google images.

Edited by Shadow_Wolf, 13 April 2006 - 05:30 PM.

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#14    Foxe

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Posted 13 April 2006 - 07:16 PM

It is a sad fact that as yet the Marlborough mound has not received the same archaeological attention as Silbury, perhaps because it is privately, rather than publicly owned. However, two important points (and killjoy ones I'm afraid) can be made. The spiral winding round the outside is, I believe, 18thC in origin - cut into the side of the mound to make a pleasant walk up to the top. Secondly, it is unlikely that the name Marlborough derives from "Merlin's Barrow". Marlborough is an Anglo-Saxon name, and the legends of merlin are not prominent in Anglo-Saxon lore. In fact, Marlborough was so named before Geoffrey of Monmouth coined the name "Merlin" anyway.

The sum total of what we know about the Marlborough mound (as opposed to what has been theorised about it) does not even include its age. It has long been thought to be a Norman motte, but Roman coins found nearby and possible antler picks suggest an older date. Infuriatingly, the coins and picks were recorded by Stukely (IIRC), and it is impossible to tell the context in which they were found, so although they are indicative pieces of evidence they are far from conclusive.

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#15    Pilgrim_Shadow

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Posted 13 April 2006 - 10:00 PM

Quote


Yeah, I meant the angle, slope and height etc, not a 'jelly mould' fit  wink2.gif

Don't forget Silbury's semi-twin mound at Marlborough (possibly a derivation from Merlin's barrow), about 7km from Silbury; this is known as Merlin's Mound, and stands in the grounds of Marlborough college.  Unlike Silbury the spiral form is very prominent, although unlike Silbury is it tree-covered, so its form isn't so easy to discern.  See here for more details, or try "merlins mound marlborough" in Google images.


The Great Pyramid of Giza was originally 481 feet tall, though it currently stands only 455 feet, due to erosion and the theft of the topmost stone block (no doubt someone needed a paperweight). It was originally 762 feet to a side, though it is now only 760 feet. The original angle would have been approximately a ratio of 1.58:1 (that is, 1.58 feet horizontally to every foot of vertical height). The current angle is harder to calculate since the capstone has been removed and I can find no refrences as to what its width was (and my geometry is too rusty to figure it out longhand); however, we can assume that the ratio is very similar to the original.

Silbury Hill, meanwhile, stands a mere 130 feet tall, with a 100-foot flat top. The base is 550 feet in diameter. If we subtract the width of the top from the base, we can calculate the ratio of width to height. For Silbury Hill, the ratio is 3.46:1 (that is, over three feet horizontally to every vertical foot).

Clearly, the ratios of base to height are nowhere near being similar; the Great Pyramid is more than twice as steep. It is nearly four times as tall, yet not even twice as wide.

There we have it - it is indeed a myth.

-Pilgrim

"Shadow," said he,
"Where can it be,
This land of Eldorado?"

"Over the mountains
Of the moon,
Down the valley of the Shadow,
Ride, boldly ride!"
The shade replied,
"If you seek for Eldorado!"




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