Letter: Labours of the Cerne Abbas giant

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The Independent Online
Sir: Attempts to establish the identity of the Cerne Abbas giant have provided archaeologists and tourists to Dorset with amusement for centuries. Among the candidates proposed are a 16th- century abbot, whose lewd and wanton ways caused scandal in the area, and an unpopular 18th- century landowner. Now Oliver Gillie's report on Rodney Castleden's findings ('Cerne Abbas giant may have held severed head', 21 May) advances the theory that the giant depicts a god worshipped by an Iron Age tribe.

Fifteen years ago I commissioned a similar resistivity survey from the Ancient Monuments Laboratory for a TV programme, Arthur C. Clarke's Mysterious World. We, too, found evidence that lines just under the giant's left arm had been erased and that they had once formed the outline of an animal's skin; but we came to a different conclusion.

When we added the 'missing' outline to the picture, by courtesy of the National Trust and some temporary whitewash, the giant looked the spitting image of Hercules, the Roman god whose worship was decreed in England

by the Emperor Commodus in AD191. Hercules was traditionally portrayed with a club in his right hand and the skin of a lion he had just slain in the other. Could the 'severed head' Mr Castleden suggests may have been drawn near by have belonged to the wretched beast?

Yours faithfully,


Tarves, Aberdeenshire

22 May