Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Ancient Thoughts on the Five Knolls

Today, we shall be finding inspiration from the world around us, instead of looking into dusty tomes for wisdom.

I shall mostly be considering the beauty of nature, as revealed to us in the gentle loveliness of the Dunstable Downs. The "Flying Archaeologist" yesterday reminded me that, although burial mounds on chalkland - including the eight or so barrows in Dunstable's "Five Knolls" are - green and gently folded into the downs today, when first built they would have been a stark white, shining with the native chalk. As the people of the Vale of Aylesbury looked up to the ridgeway at sunset, the barrows would have glowed a reddy-orange in the sunshine cast across the Vale, giving an illusion of the colour of life to those chalky sepulchres. Likewise at sunrise, the Vale folk would have seen the sun rising behind the mounds - casting the near sides into darkness and making them appear black. The Vale folk would have given thanks that the sun was rising, and even more so that they had a ridge of solid chalk between themselves and Luton.

The irony is that, unknown to them, they were encasing the bodies of their families and friends within the miriad small bodies of other former things. For the chalk is a compressed mass of the shells of tiny sea creatures, that lived and munched other tiny sea creatures and then died, in those sunny Cretaceous seas. Then they fell to the bed where, as Prof Brian Cox would say, "a mill-ion, mill-ion, mill-ion" creatures piled up and were transformed, through great weight of water and greater weight of time, into the soft white porous stone we know today.

I really shouldn't start the day like this. I'm going to be all humble now for hours, and you know how grumpy that makes me.


  1. AE, and... the carbon and calcium atoms that made those tiny sea creatures were formed in the heart of a dying star billions of years before; Cox couldn't have resisted saying that, pan out to shot of the sun setting behind his impressive cranium.. ;)

    1. .... while stood on top of the Long Barrow at Pascombe Pit, a stark figure against the dying light!

  2. You missed their primary purpose: providing small mounds for little boys to run up and down when out on walks with the family. Ahem!


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