Silbury Hill: a monumental Neolithic mound west of the River Kennet and south of Avebury village

Overview

Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
1008445
Date first listed:
01-Jan-1882
Date of most recent amendment:
29-Mar-1994

Map

Ordnance survey map of Silbury Hill: a monumental Neolithic mound west of the River Kennet and south of Avebury village
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
© British Crown and SeaZone Solutions Limited 2019. All rights reserved. Licence number 102006.006.
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Location

The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

District:
Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
Parish:
Avebury
National Grid Reference:
SU 09950 68539

Reasons for Designation

A small number of areas in southern England appear to have acted as foci for ceremonial and ritual activity during the Neolithic and Early Bronze Age periods. Two of the best known and earliest recognised, with references in the 17th century, are around Avebury and Stonehenge, now jointly designated as a World Heritage Site. In the Avebury area, the henge monument itself, the West Kennet Avenue, the Sanctuary, West Kennet long barrow, Windmill Hill causewayed enclosure and the enigmatic Silbury Hill are well-known. Whilst the other Neolithic long barrows, the many Bronze Age round barrows and other associated sites are less well-known, together they define one of the richest and most varied areas of Neolithic and Bronze Age ceremonial and ritual monuments in the country.

Silbury Hill is the most famous example of a rare class of monuments known as Neolithic monumental mounds of which only four examples have so far been identified with any certainty. Although its precise function is unclear, it is reputed to be the largest such mound in the world and would have taken many million man-hours to construct. The site therefore had considerable importance to the prehistoric inhabitants of the Avebury area and would have required a high level of social organisation to ensure its completion. Both the mound and ditches survive well and are integral to providing a full interpretation of the development of the Avebury landscape.

Details

Silbury Hill is located on a slight natural spur on the western side of the Kennet valley, south of the village of Avebury. The monument has a flat-topped conical mound surrounded by a quarry ditch and is clearly visible from much of the surrounding countryside. The mound, which is 39.3m high and has a diameter of 167.6m, was constructed in a series of steps, creating a profile resembling a stepped conical pyramid. Stone and wooden fences were used to control the placement of building material and to prevent the monument's sides from slipping. The mound is surrounded by a number of inter-connected quarry ditches which provided the majority of the materials needed to construct the mound. These quarry ditches are visible as earthworks, although they have been partially infilled as a result of ploughing over the years and would originally have been much deeper. A linear section of this quarry runs west from the monument and breaks the otherwise evenly spread layout of the ditch. The ditches have maximum dimensions of 355m east to west by c.240m north to south and now have a maximum depth of 1.3m. It has been suggested that the ditches were carefully laid out around the monument to form an image of the Neolithic `mother goddess' deity. The name `Silbury Hill' was in use in 1663, as was the alternative of Selbury, a direct derivation of the Selburi hille of c.1540. Excluded from the scheduling is the fence surrounding the mound and all signs around the monument's base but the ground beneath these features remains included in the scheduling

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Legacy

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System number:
21707
Legacy System:
RSM

Sources

Books and journals
Dames, M, The Silbury Treasure: The Great Goddess Rediscovered, (1976), all
Other
SU 16 NW 21, RCHM(E), Silbury Hill, (1973)
SU16NW102, CAO, Silbury Hill, (1989)
Title: Ordnance Survey 6" Source Date: 1961 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

Legal

This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

End of official listing

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