Archive for August 19th, 2010

Later Silbury – Archaeological evaluation of the fields south of Silbury Hill, Wiltshire.

This project aims to evaluate the Roman settlement in the fields south of Silbury Hill, to improve our understanding of a poorly-understood phase of activity around the monument and to provide information to help with its future care within the Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites World Heritage Site.

English Heritage’s Silbury Hill Conservation Project started in 2001, following a series of collapses within the Hill. In 2007, and research and rescue excavation stabilised the Hill and consolidated it for the future.

As part of the Conservation Project, English Heritage’s Geophysical Survey team carried out extensive surveys of the fields around the monument. You can read a summary of their results in Research News (Issue 10: Winter 2008-09, pages 10-13).

In the large field south of the A4 – a Roman road – extensive evidence for archaeological features shows clearly in the magnetometer survey, and ground-penetrating radar has added the details of several large stone buildings to the picture.  We think that this is a Roman roadside settlement or small town. Roman activity around Silbury has been known since the 19thcentury, when wells and middens were excavated. In the 1990s, air photographs and excavation provided new evidence for stone buildings set along a trackway on the slopes of Waden Hill, east of Silbury.

Being able to see the layout of an extensive settlement was a new and exciting discovery. It has raised many questions about the area around Silbury Hill and how it was used in the Roman period – and many of these can only be answered by excavation.

So this summer, as part of the new Later Silbury project, archaeologists and archaeological scientists from our Research Department based at Fort Cumberland are excavating some evaluation trenches in the fields south of the Hill.

We aim to: 

  • Understand more about the settlement itself – what activities can we find evidence for? When was it occupied? Is there any evidence for its ritual or religious role?
  • Investigate its relationship to Silbury Hill and surroundings – how did it fit in with the ritual landscape of Silbury Hill and Avebury, more than 2000 years after they were built?
  • Find out more about the past environment and use of the landscape around the hill and in the Winterbourne and Kennet valleys.
  • See how well the archaeological remains survive, and how deeply they are buried – this will help plan the management of the site and its safe preservation.
Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill is huge; it is likely to have involved roughly 4 million man-hours of work and 500,000 tonnes of material.

The largest man-made mound in Europe, mysterious Silbury Hill compares in height and volume to the roughly contemporary Egyptian pyramids. Probably completed in around 2400 BC, it apparently contains no burial. Though clearly important in itself, its purpose and significance remain unknown. There is no access to the hill itself.

It is part of the Avebury World Heritage Site.

Stonehenge and Avebury Stone Circle Tour Guide
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