Research on Silbury Hill

This enigmatic mound has long been the subject of investigation. At least three tunnels have been dug into the centre. Most recent research has involved non-invasive survey, seismic survey and limited excavation.

The interior of main tunnel inside Silbury Hill, taken during the project in June 2007
The interior of main tunnel inside Silbury Hill, taken during the conservation project in June 2007

The Conservation Project

In 2007 English Heritage commissioned a major programme of conservation work to stabilise Silbury Hill. This project provided a unique opportunity for archaeologists to find out more about the monument.

Atkinson’s 1968 tunnel was reopened, giving archaeologists a final opportunity to record the inside of Silbury Hill. The sides of the tunnel were cleaned and recorded using high-resolution photographs. Environmental samples were taken from archaeological deposits and a remote-controlled filming vehicle was used to record inaccessible areas. Excavations also took place on the summit.

All the known voids inside the hill, and the crater on the summit, were then refilled with chalk, using an enormous 1,465 tonnes of material. The mound has now been restored to as near its original condition as possible.

Specialists from English Heritage and seven universities have now completed their analysis of the excavated material from the project. This included the study of artefacts such as flint and antler tools, and further analysis of the biological remains such as insects, pollen and snails. Radiocarbon dating of the archaeological material has also made it possible to put specific dates to the various episodes of construction.

The results of the project were published in 2014, enabling us to answer some fundamental questions about how and when Silbury Hill was built.



Further Reading

Field, D, The Investigation and Analytical Survey of Silbury Hill, English Heritage Archaeological Investigation Report Series AI/22/2002 (Swindon, 2002)

Gillings, M, Pollard, J, Wheatley, D and Peterson, R, Landscape of the Megaliths: Excavation and Fieldwork on the Avebury Monuments 1997–2003 (Oxford, 2008)

Leary, J and Field, D, The Story of Silbury Hill (English Heritage, Swindon, 2010)

Leary, J, Field, D and Campbell, G, Silbury Hill: The Largest Prehistoric Mound in Europe (English Heritage, Swindon, 2014)

Whittle, A, Sacred Mound, Holy Rings: Silbury Hill and the West Kennet Palisade Enclosures (Oxford, 1997)

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