Neolithic Period

In addition to the mysteries of the Merlin myth, the Mound also poses a number of historical questions. There has long been speculation that the Mound has origins in the late Neolithic period, by analogy with Silbury Hill. Both ‘hills’ are man-made, with very similar construction profiles, differing obviously only in size; and both hills occupy prominent positions near natural springs which feed the River Kennet. The entire area around Avebury is crammed with ritual and burial sites dating back to the Neolithic period.

In order to settle the uncertainty over the Neolithic dating, The Mound Trust commissioned coring of the Mound, in partnership with English Heritage archaeologists. The drilling produced four samples of charcoal, allowing radiocarbon dating for the first time. The samples, which came from different levels in the mound, were taken from two bore holes through the height of the 19m monument. The results of all four showed consistently that it was built in the years around 2400 BC. This is the first firm evidence proving the theory that the castle motte is largely a re-used prehistoric structure of the highest national standing.

Jim Leary, who also led the archaeological investigations for English Heritage at nearby Silbury Hill, said, “This is an astonishing discovery. The Marlborough Mound has been one of the biggest mysteries in the Wessex landscape. For centuries people have wondered whether it is Silbury’s little sister; and now we have an answer. This is a very exciting time for British prehistory.”