Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Silbury Hill

I have sat and watched a fascinating documentary on BBC4 tonight all about the iconic Silbury Hill . I first saw the hill way back in the late 70's at the age of nine. We had a school trip to Stonehenge, then stopped off on the way home to Southampton, at West Kennet Longbarrow and Silbury Hill. I fell in love and became fascinated by such places, now 30 odd years on I know why !!

Anyway on to the programme tonight. It was a look at the construction of the hill. why was it built, how it was built, and how long it took. Sometime over the next few months all the excavation work that has gone on in the hill for many centuries now, will be ended once and for all ( hopefully anyway). The excavations and studies performed at the hill have caused immense and in my opinion unforgiveable amounts of damage to it. In 2000 a huge section of the hill collapsed, which it appears caused some surprise in certain quarters. Why ? First, some time in the late 1700's a huge shaft was dug down through the centre of the hill. Later on another tunnel was dug in from the side horizontally to the first shaft. This created a huge 'L' shape. Now surely it doesn't take a genius to figure out that actually this would cause massive structural instability? Yes, they inserted props and supports, but come on, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that leaving huge holes even supported, decreases stability??

They are about to start filling in the open spaces within the hill. Which is great news to me. Put it back as it was and leave it be . Its a site of huge historical significance, even if the historians still cannot seem to agree what it was built for. The theory supported by the documentary suggests it was built as a viewing platform, from which people could view the 'Avebury complex' which is made up of a number of sites in the area ( click on the link for details ;) ) but my theory is a bit more involved than that. I believe that the hill WAS built partly as a viewing point, partly as a rallying point ( again supported by the programme which demonstrated how instruments from the era when played at the top of the hill can be heard significant distances away), but also as a place which was held in reverence by our ancestors. Imagine if you will, an ancient druid, sets out from his home and travels to the Avebury area to carry out rituals and celebrations. He may have visited the stones, the Sanctuary and Swallowhead. Then hearing a call from the hill, he made his way across, in his belongings he has brought with him, an amount of earth taken from his homelands, or maybe from a place of significance close to his home, or from somewhere enroute to Avebury... maybe he even has a piece of turf .. anyway he heads to the hill and gives thanks for something, maybe he donates a piece of turf in thanks to the gods for a good harvest ?? I don't know,but thats just my thoughts and theories on the subject !!

If you should ever find yourself in the area, believe me when I say that watching the sun rise above the hill is an experience not to be forgotten. Its one of those ' Things to do before I die' kinda experiences. Its beautiful!!