Chalk it up: Giant Medieval Hillside Figure

Dame Aoife offers a bevy of links about large chalk carvings, of which the virility-gifted Cerne Abbas Giant is the most famous, that decorate the hills of England.

Greetings, my faithful readers!

This week we're taking a peek at those weird and white ancient monuments, Chalk Carvings (or Hill Carvings) of England, variously attributed to Celts, Saxons, Romans,and even Aliens.

We don't really know why they are there, though there are theories. These figures are so beloved that entire villages have taken it upon themselves to preserve them. The popularity of the figures is reflected not only in the affection of the locals, but also in the crop of NEW carvings that popped up in the 17-1800s, and even several newer one from WWII and today. Superstitions surround the truly old carvings. From fertility to faithfulness, people have believed in the power of these giant symbols for centuries.

Read on to learn how fascinating these ancient drawing can be.



Dame Aoife Finn of Ynos Mon
m/k/a Lisbeth Herr-Gelatt
Riverouge, Endless Hills, Aethelmearc

Celtic Chalk Hill Figures
(Site Excerpt) The most famous of these is the Cerne Abbas Giant cut into the hillside above the village of Cerne Abbas near Dorchester in Dorset. The figure is over 180 feet high and his ' virility' is very obvious! During Roman times he was identified as Hercules and associated with a fertility cult, or Priapus Worship, revived by Emperor Commodus in the late 2nd century AD.

Cerne Abbas Giant
(Site Excerpt) A local legend says that a real giant was killed on the hill and that the people from Cerne Abbas drew round the figure and marked him out on the hillside. Barren women were said to conceive soon after sleeping on the Giant's body, while young women wishing to keep their lovers faithful would walk around the figure three times.

Long Man Chalk Figure
(Site Excerpt) The Long Man of Wilmington, mysterious guardian of the South Downs, has baffled archaeologists and historians for hundreds of years. The lack of firm historical evidence still leaves many theories abounding about his history.

Historical Wiltshire: The White Horses
(Site Excerpt) Wiltshire is without doubt the county of counties when it comes to white horses, with no less than nine laying within its boundaries, although only seven of these are now visible. The vast expanse of chalk downs, with their smooth, steep sides provide a number of ideal sites to exercise the art of turf cutting.

Local Heritage Initiative: White Horse Chalk Carving
(Site Excerpt) "Before the gods that made the gods
Had seen their sunrise pass
The White Horse of the White Horse Vale
Was cut out of the grass."
So said GK Chesterton about the White Horse of Uffington, the most famous of all chalk carvings.Although he may have somewhat overestimated its age, the 365ft long galloping, big-eyed horse has been scientifically verified by Oxford University's archaeological research unit as approximately 3,000 years old.

England: Mystery cloaks 3,000-year-old chalk carving in English countryside
(Site Excerpt) The stylized figure, some 360 feet long, was gouged from the white chalk bedrock some 3,000 years ago. But why and by whom remains an enigma. "The latest theory is that it was dedicated to the Celtic goddess Epona who represented the triumph of good over evil," says Sharon Smith, curator of a small museum behind the village church in Uffington.... Others say the design was cut by Hengist, the leader of Anglo Saxon hordes in the 5th century, in the image of the horse on his standard. Folklore also claims the chalk carving is not a horse at all, but the dragon killed by St. George, England's patron saint.

Folkstone White Horse
(a modern work)
(Site Excerpt) The folkestone white horse is now finished, following the construction of the trenches last autumn, work was started in May to make final adjustments to the trenches ready for the chalk / limestone slabs. The slabs were installed in June by most of the Folkestone horse team and a large number of Gurkas, stationed in Folkestone. They worked incredibly hard and construction was completed (apart from the eye) in about two weeks. The slabs were transported down the hill on sleds. The finishing touches were added shortly after.

Jason Hawkes Photography: Chalk Hill Carvings
The thunmbnails aren't the best quality. Click on any picture to see an enlargement.

Kilburn White Horse