Silbury Hill – an Axis Mundi Connecting Underworld and Earth to Sky?

Foster, A (2011) Silbury Hill – an Axis Mundi Connecting Underworld and Earth to Sky? In: Heavenly Discourses - Myth Astronomy and Culture., 14-16 October 2011, Bristol UK. (Submitted)

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Abstract

Silbury Hill is the largest man - made Neolithic mound in Europe.  Built around 2400-2300BC at Avebury in Wiltshire UK, it predates any primary literary sources describing its intended purpose(s). It remains an enigma from a contemporary perspective, with differing disciplines proposing differing functions corresponding to the methodological-dependent findings made.  The aim of this presentation is to explore the possible reason(s) why Silbury Hill was built by using four contemporary methodological approaches:  modern archaeological findings, post-modern arguments based on archaeological evidence, consideration of Silbury Hill as a sacred space as delineated by Mircea Eliade and a phenomenological survey of Silbury Hill and the surrounding area as explicated by Christopher Tilley.  While a range of possible functions was found when collating the findings from the four approaches, it appears that most of the findings can be placed in three general sub-headings: first the heavens or sky, second the landscape or earth and third the underworld. These three classes can be symbolically linked together to form what Eliade calls an Axis Mundi, allowing a communication between these three cosmic levels, creating a sacred space with a distinct centre and cosmology. The presentation discusses these findings and concludes that first a multi – disciplinary approach may represent a more robust way forward in understanding Neolithic monuments to the contemporary mind and second that Silbury Hill appears to symbolize a link between the underworld, earth and sky. 

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords: 2011AREP;
Subjects: 99 - Other
Divisions: 99 - Other
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 25 Mar 2011 17:22
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2013 10:02
URI: http://eprints.esc.cam.ac.uk/id/eprint/2045

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