Above View of the tunnel before removal of the road stone backfill.
I feel the responsibility every day, when I’m in the tunnel.
I realise that what we are doing inside is the last chance anyone will ever get and no tunnel, and though he reached the centre of the mound, he too failed to find any central burial. The third major attempt came in 1968-1969 when the young and enthusiastic Controller of BBC2, David Attenborough, approached Richard Atkinson (one of the foremost prehistorians of his day) to tunnel once again into the mound to reveal its mysteries. Atkinson reported that the mound was constructed in three stages: the first stage was a turf mound, which had been covered by a chalk mound, which in its turn was enlarged yet again to form the huge mound one will ever go back in. It weighs heavily on my mind.
that we see today. He obtained five radiocarbon dates from the mound that suggested that it had been built in the Late Neolithic, between 2500 and 2000 BC. However, by the end of the second season, the programme came to a halt. What should be done with the tunnels that remained?
Atkinson believed that they should be left open for future generations to explore and revise his interpretations. Others were not quite so certain that the iron arches would stand up, so the Ministry of Works (the predecessor to
HOW DOES SILBURY FIT INTO THE HISTORY OF THE UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE?
Around 2400 BC, everything appears to happen. The Beaker People arrive, the first stone Stonehenge began to be erected 20 miles to the south, and the first phase of Silbury Hill was built. Is there anything before this? In particular, is there a ‘Grooved Ware’ phase, similar to the construction of Durrington Walls in the Stonehenge area?
The answer lies in the West Kennet Palisaded Enclosures, situated half a mile north-west of the West Kennet long barrow. These are vast timber enclosures, originally seen on air photos, excavated by Alasdair Whittle between 1987-1992. There are two of them, four and five hectares in area, with several smaller timber structures inside. The excavations revealed masses of Grooved Ware and also a predominance of pig bones, often associated with this pottery type. The radiocarbon dates came out between 2500-2000 BC, but one would dearly like to have greater precision: did this Grooved Ware site precede the Beaker activity or were both sites occupied at the same time? Were the users of Grooved Ware conducting their ceremonies at the palisaded enclosures whilst simultaneously Silbury was being constructed less than a mile away and the great timber circle was being constructed at Avebury? The final activity at the West Kennet long barrow must also have taken place about this time, when three large sarsen stones were erected in front of the entrance to close it for good.