Silbury Hill is a Neolithic conical construct, dating from 2,600 - 2,400 BC. Its circular base covers five acres, and an estimated one million tons of clay and chalk were used to build it, making it the largest man-made mound in Europe.
It was built in three stages, and great care went into the horozontal layering of materials to insure balance. The mound is 552 feet across at its base and stands 130 feet high from its center. It has a flat top which is 104 feet wide, and a uniform slope of 30 degrees on the sides.
The hill is now covered in five feet of accumulated silt, but it was once defined by solid chalk, and polished smooth on the surface.
Though excavations have revealed no evidence of burials, local legends (documented by John Aubrey in 1660) associate Silbury Hill with King Sil (or Zel) who was buried there on horseback, "while a posset of milk was seething." Sil and his horse were "the size of life and of solid gold." Other local traditions associate King Sil with a sun king and his horse as a "golden calf."
Officially, the purpose of Silbury Hill remains unknown, but while wandering through a musty used bookshop in Warminster (Wiltshire County) I came across a strange little pamphlet of essays and diagrams, entitled Glastonbury and Britain: A Study in Patterns. (Distributed by Shepheard-Walwyn Publishers, London, 1990*) One of the essays, written by Andrew Davidson, tells of a man named Moses B. Cotsworth of York, who had a theory concerning Silbury Hill.
Mr. Cotsworth believed that the Hill was created as a gigantic sundial to accurately determine time, seasons, and the length of the year. He points out that such accuracy required a great height (unavailable elsewhere in the area) and a long shadow on a level surface. However, using official survey results from Silbury Hill, he concluded the mound would not be high enough in its current form to accurately calculate the Equinoxes and Solstices -- unless there was once a staff on the flat top of the hill, measuring 95 feet in height. Though it cannot be proven that there was once such a staff, it is certainly a possibility.
But what of the local legends associating the Silbury Hill with a sun king on horseback and a golden calf? How would they have come into being?
Well, as it happens, there is an oral tradition linking the constellations of Taurus (bull) and Sagittarius (archer on horseback) with the Equinoxial signs, and the Somerset Zodiac (a mystery for another article) clearly shows the Archer of Sagittarius shooting an arrow at the Taurus Bull along the Equinoxial line.
The truth about Silbury Hill may never be known, but it's a mystery worth pondering and a fascinating place to visit. For more information, please visit these links:
1969 GLASTONBURY - A STUDY IN PATTERNS
Edited: Mary Williams
(Paperback. Out of print. Originally published 1969)
1971 BRITAIN - A STUDY IN PATTERNS
Edited: Mary Williams
(Paperback. Out of print. Originally published 1971)
Etva's Wiltshire County Series
West Kennet Long Barrow (3,650 BC)
Stonehenge (3,100 BC)
Old Sarum (3,000 BC)
Avebury Henge (3,000 BC)
Silbury Hill (2,600 BC)