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 Post subject: Silbury Hill Latest BBC Interpretation
PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2007 12:29 pm 
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Location: Harbledown nr Canterbury
Anyone see the BBC documentary on this year's work at Silbury Hill, on Sunday night (21 Oct 07)? Or have any interesting thoughts and ideas on this amazing site?

It was very interesting from a technical/methodological point of view - seeing how the work was done and hearing the ethical debate, but more fascinating still was the attempt to work out the purpose of the monument.

What do others think? TV of course requires clean-cut answers and Professors need to save face and secure funding. But can we ever have a firm idea of what the monument was for and how it was used?

The conclusion was that it was used ritually in conjunction with the other Avebury monuments, was built in a single generation by some autocrat determined to show the newly arrived Bronze-makers and users that Neolithic folk still meant business, and was therefore the swansong of a dying culture. Later peoples looked after it and added more.

However they also declared that it was not built by slaves but by a willing labour force of devotees who did it (and I paraphrase) 'to bind themselves to each other, and to their land)' as if they were happy collective farm workers in some Stalinist propaganda newsreel, or nice middle class New Age people living in a commune - a category of persons that TV companies always seem to have in mind when doing archaeology.

Isn't it just as likely that the site was simply a monstrous and otherwise entirely functionless monument to the ego of a tyrant/tyrannical dynasty that served no purpose at all except to remind his/their subjects who was in charge, and to perpetuate his/their memory? A kind of Ozymandias statue of Wiltshire.

No evidence was put forward that supports the 'happy workers' model more than the 'toiling slaves' model or vice versa, so how is that the BBC feel free to come to such a conclusion?


Last edited by Heliodorus on Wed Oct 24, 2007 5:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2007 2:17 pm 
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I personally think the best thing to come out of the recent work on the Hill is the fact that they have banned all future work on the site. At last. Excavate where you want, the fact remains it almost certainly not going to contain golden calfs or a hoard of metalwork. it is as it appears a big mound of turf and gravel with a nice chalk cone and not much else.

However, one thing of interest was the somewhat strange flat top to the hill which never made much sense to me has now been reinterpreted as a Saxon or early medieval levelling for a fortification. This would make sense, not least because what I had always assumed to be a ring of subsidece around the hill crest could well be a defensive ditch. ironically, you would need to excavate or carry out a res survey to prove this, which time is running out for. But the saxon/medieval metalwork is a big clue in support of this identitification.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 24, 2007 2:24 pm 
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My favourite quote of the day was from the BBC that described the Hill as Britains answer to the pyramids. LOL yeah in that it does not contain any burials, or goods, and is not made of stone per se, just like the pyramids. this, in my opinion, is the worst kind of popular archaeology in which if something is old and big it must be like other old and big things irrespective of social role, time period, function, material, culture, relgious system, etc etc.


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