Years ago I was able to visit Sidbury Hill the day I toured Avebury and Stonehenge. It was strange then. It ahs been strange for 4,000 years. No one knows what it is all about.
There is going to be a major study of the strange “mountain”.
“…There it sits by the A4, an outlandish sight dwarfing the cars that stream past its circular base. It is 30-metres high and 160-metres wide, the largest man-made mound in Europe, but in silhouette it looks like an alien spaceship from a Fifties sci-fi movie.
It is, in fact, more than 4,000 years old (c2,400-2,000BC), and its purpose has been a well-kept secret for at least half that time. Suggestions range from the legendary, to the barmy, to the halfway plausible. One has it that the devil built it to hide a gold statue while on the way, for some unknown reason, to Devizes, another that it was the resplendent burial chamber of the mythical warrior king Sil and his horse. There are connections with Arthurian legends, and then there is a hypothesis that, because of high levels of contamination of the water supply by grazing sheep, it formed a kind of reservoir of pure water, with rainfall percolating through its chalk structure to gather in the surrounding ditch. This one sounds practical until you learn that its making would have involved more than four million man-hours and 500,000 tonnes of material quarried from ditches and terraces, carried out over at least 200 years.
Silbury Hill is in the guardianship of English Heritage, in whose laboratories recent fascinating new finds are being investigated. Several years ago, a hole appeared at the summit of the Neolithic monument, around the spot where the Duke of Northumberland had sunk a shaft to carry out excavations in 1776. Further investigation showed that other tunnels from later digs were also unstable. Contracting a team of engineers to stabilise the internal structure also provided a chance to gain a greater insight into date and function. The work was only completed last winter, but while it could take two years to fully evaluate the finds, it seems Silbury had a part to play in later history that no one had hitherto imagined.
Archaeologists found a series of medieval pot-holes on top of the hill, indicating a large building. The discovery of two arrowheads also suggested it had a defensive purpose in the period of the Danish invasions early in the 11th century, or around the time of the Norman Conquest. There is speculation, too, that Silbury was originally dome-shaped in its prehistoric form, and that its current flat-topped aspect was the result of later lopping off to create its military function…, …there is also evidence of Roman usage in the platforms along the side of the hill. “Often, the Romans adopted the local gods and forms of worship when they arrived in new countries, so we think it would have had some sort of ceremonial function for the Romans. But it is possible it was disused in the period prior to their arrival in 43BC. The Roman road to Bath (the A4) runs around the base of the hill, but we have nothing to suggest it was in use after the Romans until the late Saxon or early Norman period.”…Because it’s a fragile, though remarkably uneroded monument, access to the slopes and summit of Silbury is barred, but, says Harding, from the top you can see across to Avebury henge. If you visit the Sanctuary, the stone circle whose remains lie on a hill to the east, you can see across to Silbury, and the stone entrance to West Kennett Long Barrow. …Bit by bit, archaeologists are piecing together elementary facts of how Silbury Hill was built. There were, it seems, three main phases. The first used stacked turf capped with clay; the second used piled rubble chalk and was undertaken soon afterwards, around 2,400BC. It is possible there was a gap of a few hundred years between this and the completion of the third phase. It’s worth remembering, as we admire the soft, turfy outline of Silbury today, that in its original conception it would have been stark white. “There is a lovely picture of it in the snow, and I think that is how it probably would have looked, this huge white hill in the landscape,” agrees Harding.