32.—Silbury Hill, in Wiltshiredetails

[Picture: 32.—Silbury Hill, in Wiltshire]
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32.—Silbury Hill, in Wiltshire

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An engraving of Silbury Hill, near Avebury; a man leads a team of horses pulling a hay wain, on top of which sits a boy. A man and woman walk alongside. In the background lies the great hill, and in the foreground a tree.

Silbury Hill (Fig. 32) is the largest artificial mound in Europe. It is not so large as the mound of Alyattes in Asia Minor, which Herodotus has described and a modern traveller has ridden round. It is of greater dimensions than the second pyramid of Egypt. Stukeley is too ardent in the contemplation of this wonder of his own land when he says, “I have no scruple to affirm it is the most magnificent mausoleum in the world, without excepting the Egyptian pyramids.” But an artificial hill which covers five acres and thirty-four perches; which at the circumference of the base measures two thousand and twenty-seven feet; whose diameter at top is one hundred and twenty feet, its sloping height three hundred and sixteen feet, and its perpendicular height one hundred and seven feet, is indeed a stupendous monument of human labour, of which the world can show very few such examples. There can be no doubt whatever that the hill is entirely artificial. The great earth works of a modern railway are the results of labour, assisted by science and stimulated by capital, employing itself for profit: but Silbury Hill in all likelihood was a gigantic effort of what has been called hero-worship, a labour for no direct or immediate utility, but to preserve the memory of some ruler, or lawgiver, or warrior, or priest. Multitudes lent their aid in the formation; and shouted or wept around it, when it had settled down into solidity under the dews and winds, and its slopes were covered with ever-springing grass. If it were a component part of the temple at Abury, it is still to be regarded, even more than the gathering together of the stone circles and avenues of that temple, as the work of great masses of the people labouring for some elevating and heart-stirring purpose. Their worship might be blind, cruel, guided by crafty men who governed them by terror or by delusion. But these enduring monuments show the existence of some great and powerful impulses which led the people to achieve mighty things. There was a higher principle at work amongst them, however abused and perverted, than that of individual selfishness. The social principle was built upon some sort of reverence, whether of man, or of beings held to preside over the destinies of man.” (p. 11)

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