Silbury Hill, Wiltshire: Palaeohydrology of the Kennet, Swallowhead Springs and the Siting of Silbury Hill

Author(s): Paul Whitehead, Mike Edmunds

The aim of the project has been to assess the palaeohydrology of the Silbury Hill area and determine the flow rates, groundwater levels and hydrological conditions in 4500BP. This has been undertaken using hydrogeological mapping techniques and hydrological modelling techniques, making use of outputs from the historical runs of a Global Circulation Model to recreate past flows and groundwater levels in the Upper Kennet at Silbury. The modelling results have recreated a palaeohydrology for the Avebury and Silbury area and indicate that there was a wetter climate in the area. This would have generated higher river flows and most importantly higher groundwater levels, which would have sustained the local populations through dry summers. Also, the raised water table would have ensured waterlogged ground in places, which when coupled with increased vegetation and tree cover would have provided a more sustainable environment and better soils for crops in the area. Thus the study indicates that there would have been wetter and warmer conditions in 4000-4500BP and this could have sustained a large population needed to construct Silbury Hill. In addition, the generally wetter nature of the area, compared to the current dry environment, could have given people the impression that the area was the source of the Kennet and a major source of the River Thames

Report Number:
Research Report


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