Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Neolithic Persistence

Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill is a man-made creation. Located in the flat-as-a-pancake English lowlands (at least that’s how most Midwesterners would characterize the Wiltshire landscape that surrounds it), Silbury Hill is the largest Neolithic mound in Europe, and one of the largest such “structures” in the world.

Even by modern standards, Silbury Hill is big. It stands about 130-feet high (about the height of a 13-story modern office building). In circumference it measures about three-tenths of a mile; in area about 5 acres.

 More amazing to this observer is how it all began – with basket loads of gravel, some wooden stakes and stone boulders. To this, successive layers of chalk rubble (found in the adjacent countryside) and dirt were added over a period of about 250 to 400 years. The volume of the mound is estimated to about 324,000 cubic yards. Assuming that each basketful held about one cubic foot, this works out to be about 8.75 million basket loads. No wonder it took several hundred years to complete the project.

Why did they build it? Scholars have no idea. Smaller Neolithic mounds nearby were used as burial sites, but archeologists excavating at Silbury Hill have found nothing underneath all that dirt.

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