Silbury Hill, the largest prehistoric mound in Europe, has long been an enigma. Set within the chalk downlands of the Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage Site, it is traditionally thought to have been the burial place of King Sil. First investigated in 1776, then again in 1849, successive archaeological interventions culminated in Professor Richard Atkinson's televised campaign in the late 1960s.
Following the dramatic collapse of the 1776 excavation shaft at the summit of the Hill in 2000, detailed surveys revealed that voids associated with the earlier excavations existed deep within the mound. Mindful of potential damage to undisturbed archaeological features within Silbury Hill, in 2007 the decision was taken to re-enter the Hill using Professor Atkinson's tunnel and directly backfill all known and predicated voids. These remedial works were accompanied by full archaeological recording.
This report discusses the resulting stratigraphical and palaeoenvironmental evidence as well as new radiocarbon dates and offers a re-interpretation of the construction of the Hill, setting it in its late Neolithic context. It also details the later history of the site and conservation measures undertaken.
Jim Leary is an archaeologist with English Heritage. David Field is recently retired as an investigator for English Heritage. Gill Campbell is head of Environmental Studies at English Heritage.
1. Preparations: the setting, previous research, recent research and surveys 2. The evolution of Silbury Hill: the prehistoric phases 3. The prehistoric finds 4. The Silbury Chronology 5. Understanding preservation and formation processes 6. Silbury Hill: Understanding the environment 7. Ways of understanding prehistoric Silbury Hill 8. Neolithic Silbury in context 9. In the Shadow of the Hill: Silbury Hill in the Roman and the Medieval period 10. The conservation of Silbury Hill