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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 March 2007, 12:44 GMT
Roman clues found at ancient hill
Silbury Hill
English Heritage is conducting stabilisation work at the site
Archaeologists have found traces of a Roman settlement at a 5,000-year-old landmark man-made hill in Wiltshire.

English Heritage believes there was a Roman community at Silbury Hill about 2,000 years ago.

The 130ft Neolithic mound near Avebury - one of Europe's largest prehistoric monuments - is thought to have been created some 3,000 years earlier.

Experts carrying out a project to stabilise the hill say the site may have been a sacred place of pilgrimage.

Human activity

English Heritage geophysicist Dr Neil Linford said: "We are really excited by this discovery because we had no idea that a Roman village of such a size lay this close to Silbury Hill."

Locator map of Avebury

The evidence suggests the Roman community was based on an area the size of 24 football pitches at the base of the hill.

The find was made using caesium magnetometers which can detect changes in the ground's magnetic field caused by human activity.

The settlement was on the road from London to Bath, which is the modern-day A4, where it crossed the Winterbourne river.

Stopover?

English Heritage regional director Dr Bob Bewley says it will be "exciting" to try to find out more about the Roman presence.

"Without further investigation it is difficult to say, but it could be that what we have here is something like a roadside village, where Roman travellers would have changed horses and stayed overnight on the way to Bath, but also a place of pilgrimage focused on the hill," he said.

Mystery surrounds why the hill, where stabilisation work will take place from May to September, was built in the first place.

Heavy rains in May 2000 caused substantial damage to the hill, with the collapse of an 18th century shaft.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Aerial footage of Silbury Hill



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