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Work on Silbury is finished

The following written a few days ago was my response to the final completion of work done to Silbury Mound by Skanska, who did a difficult job in rather dangerous conditions, and of course to English Heritage who over saw and financed the work done.

" bruised and battered and looking slightly the worse for wear Silbury is repaired" Those were my words a brief summary of what I saw from the following English Heritage link.

Yet following the repair work of Silbury has been far from easy, the monthly photos of the tunnel that had collapsed, the steel girders used to shore up the tunnel, the rubbish that came out of the mound,.......... a long litany of abuse to a fabulous monument. My anger against Atkinson, who, all those years ago, excavated and dug into the mound. His arrogant attitude as he scarred the mound once more, leaving a visible sign in the form of a dated lintel in the style 'kilroy was here' that anger has never abated, he, as an archaeologist should have known better!

Sometimes we talk of knives in hearts, Silbury had a tunnel thrust through its heart, what has been revealed? not much is my answer, no golden pot, no burial, all I saw in those months of repair was a neolithic mound decimated by past antiquarians and an archaeologist who had put his own glory foremost neither of which had little to do with a respect for the past or even for the spiritual nature of the mound.

Public relations and media hype went terribly wrong for English Heritage, as the chalk slipped and slithered behind the shored up tunnel as the good, and the wise stood yellow-hatted amongst the dust, greater holes revealed themselves, the great pit at the top slumped further down. Silbury had turned in on itself, almost a death wish.

Well it is finished, its sides battle scarred, the top will be artifically smoother no doubt, the bare patches reseeded and people will come to gaze. The new pagans will hold their ceremonies, not quite sure what it is they are celebrating but willing to play the game of ritual and belief in a secular age that has gone horribly wrong....

And I shall remember the Silbury I saw all those years ago, quiet and forgotten sitting in a landscape devoid of the hustle and bustle of the inquisitive tourist, a crowning glory, a manmade hill shocking you into awareness of a prehistoric past that existed thousands of years ago.

So also I have learnt to defend it, as others have, with our words and our passion for a world long gone and neglected. My admiration goes out to those few who so bravely on Heritage Action learnt to defend what they believed in, they encountered abuse and criticism along the way, and occasionally retired somewhat shellshocked by vindictive onslaughts but they stayed the course, and I believe they made a small difference.

What did come from the Atkinson dig though was the revelation of all the indigenous wild plants that were found in the primary mound, an invaluable prehistoric record of the landscape at that time. These fragmentary remains of seeds were recorded in a report in A.Writtle's book "Sacred Mounds, Holy Rings".

Some archaeologists would argue that the Bronze age people revered the land so much that they would bring offerings of the earth around them to a place of sanctity, such as a barrow, or the foundations of a new settlement if this is so then perhaps this is the only 'treasure' that Silbury has to reveal.

I suspect that there is a huge sigh of relief felt by everyone that the work is finished, Silbury can rest in peace once more - the largest manmade monument in Europe - has been repaired and conserved for the future.

moss Posted by moss
13th May 2008ce
Edited 13th May 2008ce

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