Silbury Hill - to this day no one knows why it was made...

May 20, 1999

Before plunging into the Cotswold Hills, we took one more side trip to an area still shrouded in mystery. The Avebury stones are of roughly the same age as those at Stonehenge. But where Stonehenge is in one area about the size of a basketball court, the Avebury stones are in a circle over a mile in circumference.

Just as in Stonehenge, however, no one knows for sure the significance of these stones. The safe bets say it was for a range of options: worship, show of wealth and exercise of power.

The stone circle took us about an hour to walk around (allowing time for photographing of course). It's divided roughly into four quadrants by fences which the town maintains. There's nobody to greet you, you just walk about on your own. (To the locals these stones are just part of everyday life.)

The third quadrant of the circle was a photographer's paradise, filled with amazing rock objects, grazing sheep, thatched roof barns and a sky pregnant with possibilities.


All around the town is a ditch about twenty feet or so deep. It would be an impressive earth moving effort today, but when one considers this was done with stone age tools in rocky, chalky ground, one's head empties of normal concerns and fills with the timeless sound of wind through trees.


With the sun beginning to set, we drove a short distance to the Kennett Long Barrow Burial Mound. This mound was built in 3,500 BC and is a mound over 100 yards long. At one end is a tiny chamber where pre-historic Celtic peoples buried their special citizens. It was used for over a thousand years, right up until the time the Avebury stones were laid. In that time only about 50 people were buried there. (Though some who were buried were later dug up for ceremonies nearby...) As soon as Avebury was made, the site was abandoned.


One of the amazing things to us is how accessible the site is. There's admittedly no one there and signs clearly show anyone how to access the site. There you can reach out and touch ancient history - you have to walk about ten minutes to reach it. 

Finally, we walked back to our van and across the street (see the van trying to hide in the grass?) to an even more ancient and mysterious object.

Silbury hill looks like a burial mound doesn't it? Turns out there's nobody buried here. There have been three separate attempts to determine its purpose, the most recent the same year we landed men on the moon. But they've turned up absolutely no evidence of using this as a burial mound. Or any evidence of what it was used for at all. They have determined exactly how it was built, however. Sort of like a step pyramid, rings of stonework were made and filled in with the local chalk. They calculate this would have taken 1 million person hours to complete. But this thing was finished in 4,500BC! The local population for several square miles may have only numbered 1,000 people, and it would have taken a thousand workers ten years to put in that much time. At least their spirits must be having a good laugh watching us try to discover what they were trying to do...

Join us next as we drive through the Cotswold Hills

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