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Soon to be displaced as kings of the hill?

Soon to be displaced as kings of the hill?

Thanks to the internet there are disinterested duck farmers in Dohar who will tell you that Silbury Hill was started in August because flying ants were found in turf at it’s base (August being the usual month of their emergence, nuptual flight and demise). The conflicting news – that no flying ants were revealed in the recent investigations or in a recent re-analysis of Prof Atkinson’s 1960s archive [other than a blurred photo of a slide (now lost) of some wings labelled as from Silbury’s base] – has been a lot slower to travel. As has the reality that the mortal remains of flying ants can remain intact within turf for many a month. So the ants have managed to maintain their position as the poster boys of the Hill. Until now….



It seems that earthworm faeces can be used to measure past temperatures. Scientists from the universities of Reading and York report that calcium carbonate nodules produced by worms and dug up from archaeological sites give a unique measure of the ancient local temperatures. The data can be sensitive to variations in time, as well as being geographically specific and the scientists are currently focussing on samples recovered from Silbury Hill. (Of particular interest might be the dark base layer speculated by Jim Leary to have been produced by worms).

Whether this “new terrestrial palaeothermometer” as it has been termed will eventually suggest Silbury was commenced in August or at some other time of year is yet to become clear but it seems that the 110,000 results you get by typing Silbury ants into Google could soon be eclipsed by Silbury worms!


July 2013

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