Silbury Hill

Silbury Hill in Wiltshire is 129 feet high, making it the tallest prehistoric man-made hill or mound in Europe. Despite the attentions of treasure hunters and their close kin the archaeologists over the centuries, the purpose of Silbury Hill remains unknown.

It is said to be the burial place of the legendary King Sil or Zil, who takes the form of a life-sized golden statue mounted on a golden horse. There is a great deal else to say about Silbury Hill and its surroundings, but for now, a huge hole appeared in the top of the hill in 2002 and it was nearly lost to us as a result.

In 2007, however, work was undertaken by the Swedish construction company Skanska to repair the hill and I became the last archaeologist inside before the different spaces were filled in the following day. This aspect of my personal standing and relationship with the hill came about by accident rather than by design and it’s a trifling matter of historical fact.

While I was inside, however, the few miners working on the project asked me if I’d like to climb into and see the strange, forbidding voids that had appeared in the hill over time, so I gratefully said yes to this kind offer. And the result was something vastly more important than anything concerned with mere archaeology, to my mind. Something that’s never left me.

From the miners, I learned that more men had stood on the surface of the Moon than had been into these gloomy, awe-inspiring caves. 12 people have so far walked on the Moon, but that number is certain to increase and probably soon, while the number of those of us who crawled through the upper voids of Silbury Hill will never become larger than the original handful.

The tunnels and rampages of the treasure hunters, antiquarians and archaeologists were filled in forever, starting on the morning after I’d wandered around inside this Cyclopean Neolithic construction. The archaeologists working on the last phases of the repairs to the hill had sent up a robot probe, rather than venture into this threatening, highly dangerous territory above their heads in person.

One day, hopefully soon, I shall write about my general familiarity with Silbury Hill over the decades, and specifically about my lonely “demon-haunted” time inside this vast, unfathomable, ancient hill.