8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very beautiful book on a fascinating topic
This is a thoughtful and very readable book on a fascinating topic. The authors have suceeded admirably in creating a text that is at the same time scholarly, and perfectly suited to the average reader who is not necessarily well-informed about the subject. I particularly enjoyed the little touches that bring prehistory to life by drawing parallels with the present day -...
Published on 23 Dec 2010 by D. Bramhall
11 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another story from silbury hill
Observations on The Story of Silbury Hill
I was on the Board of the Silbury Hill Conservation Project since its inception and I managed and carried out archaeological excavation and recording at Silbury from 2000 until the 15th June 2007. This was the day that I was dismissed from the on-going conservation work and tunnel re-excavation and then replaced as...
Published on 2 Nov 2010 by fachtna
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very beautiful book on a fascinating topic,
This review is from: The Story of Silbury Hill (Paperback)This is a thoughtful and very readable book on a fascinating topic. The authors have suceeded admirably in creating a text that is at the same time scholarly, and perfectly suited to the average reader who is not necessarily well-informed about the subject. I particularly enjoyed the little touches that bring prehistory to life by drawing parallels with the present day - the discussion of the turf at Wembley, for instance.
The book is also clearly and beautifully presented, with some delightful illustrations. Many readers will find it a pleasure to read, to own and read again, equally at home on bookshelf or coffee table. I cannot recommend it too highly.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and authoritative,
This review is from: The Story of Silbury Hill (Paperback)It is always pleasing to find a book that is written with authority and knowledge and is both informative and very enjoyable to read. This is very well written (I doubt if David Attenborough would have his name associated with second best) and introduces new ideas about this fascinating place. The authors present new, sensible and believable explanations for Silbury Hill and have the background to have their ideas taken seriously. The book is illustrated with a wealth of attractive photographs and charming drawings. Highly recommended to all, not just prehistorians.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Silbury revealed ... a bit,
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This review is from: The Story of Silbury Hill (Paperback)This book is the result of an unfortunate occurrence. In May of 2000, a large, deep hole was found by a walker on top of Silbury Hill, the largest prehistoric mound in Europe and part of the World Heritage Site that covers Stonehenge to the south and the Avebury henge to the north. Jim Leary and David Field, who worked at Silbury in the wake of the hole's appearance, here provide us with an account of their work on, in and around Silbury, as well as that of previous generations of archaeologists, antiquarians and other interested parties. Its tone wanders between informal narrative and the presentation of the recent archaeological finds, with perhaps a little too much of the former and not enough of the latter. A background narrative of the creation of Silbury from a small heap of gravel surrounded by a rough circle of shallow ditches to its present massive bulk does, however, emerge. The authors here make the point that, like many other Neolithic creations, Silbury Hill may have grown organically over a period of time from its humble beginnings to its present form.
Living quite near Silbury, I followed the progress of work on it after the hole's appearance with some interest. I had hoped that this book might shed light on why more than seven years passed between the hole appearing and being filled in. I was disappointed. While there is a brief, and largely unsatisfactory, explanation of why things moved so slowly between 2000 and 2002, there is no attempt to explain why virtually nothing was done for the next five years until the 2007 excavations into the network of previous tunnels dug into the hill in 1776, 1849 and 1967-9. It was failure to properly backfill the 1776 shaft, sunk down through the mound from its summit to the original ground level, that led to the 2000 hole.
I suppose it was expecting too much of a book published by English Heritage, the body tasked with caring for Silbury, and written by two men who rely on the same body for work, that it would be open about their shambolic response to the appearance of the hole and the catalogue of errors that followed on from it. Their first big mistake, partially admitted in the book, was placing a corrugated roofing sheet as a cover over the hole. What this achieved was to shed large quantities of rainwater onto one side of the hole, causing a further collapse that doubled the size of the original hole. Their next big mistake was to block the hole with a temporary filling consisting mainly of large polystyrene blocks inside what is described in the book as a 'geotextile membrane,' which looks like a big pond-liner. This resulted in rainwater taking, as water does, the line of least resistance created by the temporary fill, straight down into the middle of the mound.
For an organisation whose sole aim is to preserve sites of historical importance, English Heritage seems quite bad at learning from history. Not far from Silbury is a little-known Neolithic settlement called Marden Henge. Inside the henge at Marden there once stood a mound similar to Silbury, though about half its size. Like Silbury, the Marden mound had a vertical shaft dug right through it, this one in 1807 and under the guidance of two of the greats of early archaeology, Sir Richard Colte-Hoare and William Cunnington. Despite their involvement, no attempt was made to backfill the shaft after excavations were finished. The result was that the shaft filled with water that percolated out through the mound causing it to collapse into a sludgy mess. Ten years later, it had been completely ploughed out. Oddly enough, although the ploughing is mentioned in the present book, the collapse caused by leaving the open shaft is not, although it may be considered rather more relevant in the circumstances. This is even odder in light of the fact that co-author, Jim Leary, led a season of excavations at Marden in 2010 that included an investigation of its former mound.
The result of the temporary backfill at Silbury was that, during the 2007-8 investigation of the hill's interior, the tunnel that had been dug in the 1960s, and had remained reasonably stable since, began to collapse. Rainwater funnelled into the interior of the mound via the 1776 shaft had soaked out into the surrounding mound and percolated down through it, destabilising it. Had it not been for the original builders of Silbury making it so structurally stable, there could have been a repeat of Marden. It seems unbelievable that no one involved understood the behaviour of water sufficiently to point out the inevitable results of either the roofing sheet cover or the polystyrene block backfill.
On the plus side, the book is well illustrated throughout with some very good photographs of Silbury's interior and exterior, equally good plans, maps and diagrams, and some evocative recreations of what it might have looked like at various times in the past. There is some interesting information about a small Roman town that grew up around the hill during the 3rd century CE. It's also interesting to learn that the hill is not entirely built of chalk but is seeded throughout with sarsen boulders. The new radio-carbon dates are interesting too, fixing the construction of the hill within the period of the digging of the banks and ditches of the Avenue at Stonehenge and the rearrangement of some of the bluestone uprights within it. If, as is widely believed, the great sarsen stones of Stonehenge were brought from fields to the east of Avebury, then Silbury may be one of a linked chain of sites running between Avebury and Stonehenge that also includes Marden henge and Durrington Walls.
Of course, the book covers speculation about what Silbury Hill was for. The authors are very fair in their inclusion of theories derived from archaeologists and also from Pagan and New Age writers such as Michael Dames and Julian Cope. I'm pleased to note that, with the exception of the built-by-aliens theory, these alternative explanations are generally treated very fairly. The authors seem genuinely sympathetic to the fact that many people now regard Silbury, Avebury and other such places as sacred. Having met Jim Leary during the excavations at Marden, I can vouch for the fact that he is, as well as a genuine enthusiast for our prehistoric past, a very nice guy.
All in all then, an interesting book that expands our knowledge of Silbury Hill and its environs, although perhaps not as much, nor in as much detail, as one might hope.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Story of Silbury Hill,
This review is from: The Story of Silbury Hill (Paperback)I purchased this book upon a friendly recomendation. I live locally to Silbury Hill and was fortunate enough to be invited in to wander the tunnels prior to te final backfill. I knew a little of the history of Silbury and the surrounding Avebury estate and my interest was based on curiosity and the eagerness to learn more about our ancestors. This book has a wealth of knowlege kindly passed on to us and is an easy and enjoyable study and read. Wonderfull illustrations and photographs. Every local school should have a copy in thier library at least. Excellent. Much More than I was expecting.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Story of Silbury Hill....so far,
This review is from: The Story of Silbury Hill (Paperback)'The Story of Silbury Hill' provides a beautifully illustrated and well documented account of the ideas and attempts, from the 17th/18th century aristocratic treasure-seekers, Aubrey, Drax, Merewether, Stukeley, etc., through to the contemporary Cardiff University archaeologists, Atkinson, Whittle and Leary, to probe into the mysteries of this ancient enigma.
The book recollects the damage that had been inflicted on Silbury Hill through numerous tunnels and shafts that had been excavated prior to the English Heritage Conservation and Restoration Project in 2007/2008. The human vandalism, known and unknown, thousands of years of air pollution, animals grazing on the hill and wind and rain seeping through this vulnerable and deteriorating mound and in recent times CO2 emissions from nearby traffic would suggest that if this was a crime scene any evidence found to date the hill would be inadmissible.
Surprisingly the authors stay loyal to Professor Atkinson's date for the construction of the hill at around 4,600 years ago. They advocate the presence of antler remains and insects in the mound confirm this date. The flint flakes dating over 10,000 years old found in pits at the top of the first phase of Silbury Hill, which might suggest Silbury Hill was much older, was glossed over. Alas this evidence should also be inadmissible as there is no way of knowing that these flint flakes were deliberately placed, to date the hill, in its centre over 10,000 years ago!
The authors sensibly avoid controversial conclusions regarding the function of this monument and propose that it was probably accidentally built over time in separate stages. However, the book inadvertently hints at evidence in the form of sarsen stones, chalk blocks, cavities and a thin layer of stone-free material that covers the base of the hill might suggest the opposite view that Silbury Hill may have been carefully designed and constructed to a pre-determined plan. Some attempts by the authors to find clues by looking `outside the box' at other comparable constructions around the world were well meaning but inept due to lack of any similarities with Silbury Hill with the exception, in my opinion, of the pyramids of Egypt that were alluded to.
Maybe clues can be found elsewhere as to the original purpose of Silbury Hill. For example by investigating structures and their scientific properties, built in our pre-history that can be found on every continent on Earth - pyramids? Perhaps an intriguing topic for a TV documentary Sir David?!!
A must read book for anyone even vaguely interested in Silbury Hill.
Author and Researcher
Silbury Dawning: The Alien Visitor Gene Theory
11 of 25 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Another story from silbury hill,
This review is from: The Story of Silbury Hill (Paperback)Observations on The Story of Silbury Hill
I was on the Board of the Silbury Hill Conservation Project since its inception and I managed and carried out archaeological excavation and recording at Silbury from 2000 until the 15th June 2007. This was the day that I was dismissed from the on-going conservation work and tunnel re-excavation and then replaced as `director of fieldwork' by Jim Leary, hitherto a (relatively recently appointed) member of the project team. The manner of my removal and replacement was and remains controversial (described at http://sites.google.com/site/anotherstoryfromsilburyhill/ ).
In these circumstances, rather than 'review' this book here, I feel it would be more appropriate instead to simply make a few observations on the reporting of events during that part of the Conservation Project for which I had responsibility and have first-hand knowledge. There are a number of factual inconsistencies in the portrayal of these events in the book ie:
`.... while Jim Leary directed the excavations in 2007 and 2008.' (page xii).
The text quoted above gives the reader the impression that Jim Leary directed all of the excavations in 2007. This is incorrect as I directed the excavations at Silbury from 2000 onwards and in 2007 until the 15th June.
`For archaeologists specialising in prehistory, any trepidation at being lowered into the hole was tempered by sheer excitement at the thought of seeing the interior of one of Europe's most important prehistoric monuments.' (page 70).
The text quoted above gives the reader the impression that archaeologists specialising in prehistory, like Mr Leary for example, were present at this very early stage in the project. This is an incorrect portrayal. I was one of the very few people who were lowered into the hole and none of us was a specialist in prehistory. On a slightly different tack the thing I found astonishing in this experience was not that the shaft was square but that people had been down the open shaft before us and had left offerings like tea-lights and a small model bull. I am surprised that the authors did not mention this to illustrate the compelling attraction of the monument. One of the things that I found most interesting was the evidence for differing stages in the construction of the mound which could be clearly seen in the walls of the shaft. Here distinctly differing types of mound deposits were separated by a white continuous band of crushed or trampled chalk.
`On Friday 11 May 2007, the large green door that had been closed nearly 40 years previously was opened.' (page 90).
The text quoted above gives the reader the impression that this was the first time that the tunnel door had been opened for nearly 40 years. This is incorrect and omits to mention that the tunnel door had been opened in the previous year (2006) by Skanska.
`.... it could be seen that the tunnel had been filled with pink, Type 1 roadstone.' (page 91).
The text quoted above reinforces the impression for the reader that this was the first time that this roadstone fill had been observed. This is incorrect. The fact that the tunnel had been filled with pink roadstone had been established in a partial re-exposure of the tunnel entrance by English Heritage in 2004.
The above passages seem to me to reveal a willingness by their author (Mr Leary I believe) to re-write and misrepresent facts from even very recent history. I recognise that this view is based upon a limited set of observations but there is very little other material in the book which refers to matters of which I have first-hand knowledge. I was forbidden to visit Silbury during the engineering and archaeological work which took place from mid-June 2007 onwards.
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The Story of Silbury Hill by David Field (Paperback - 1 Oct 2010)