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A giant’s story: How new archaeological research may help reveal England’s long-lost past

Archaeology correspondent David Keys explains how England’s hillside chalk figures shed fresh light on the political and religious motivations behind their construction

Wednesday 12 May 2021 00:21
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Volunteers work to repair and refresh the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset, where people are working with the National Trust to re-chalk the giant figure
Volunteers work to repair and refresh the Cerne Abbas Giant in Dorset, where people are working with the National Trust to re-chalk the giant figure

The discovery that one of England’s best-known chalk hill figures - the Cerne Abbas giant – was probably created by the Anglo-Saxons in early medieval times has substantial implications for how historians interpret at least some of southern Britain’s other hillside images.

The hill figure phenomenon is, in the main, an exclusively English tradition. Over the millennia, at least 35 have been carved into English hillsides.

The oldest known example is the White Horse of Uffington – a probable communal or tribal political or religious emblem created around 1000 BC.

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