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Cerne Giant in Dorset dates from Anglo-Saxon times, analysis suggests

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  • Cerne Giant in Dorset dates from Anglo-Saxon times, analysis suggests

    WARNING TO THE EASILY OFFENDED: THE ARTICLE CONTAINS A PHOTOGRAPH OF THE CARVING IN ALL HIS "MANHOOD".

    https://www.theguardian.com/science/...lysis-suggests


    Over the centuries the huge, naked, club-wielding giant carved into a steep hillside in Dorset has been thought prehistoric, Celtic, Roman or even a 17th century lampoon of Oliver Cromwell.

    After 12 months of new, hi-tech sediment analysis, the National Trust has now revealed the probable truth and experts admit they are taken aback. The bizarre, enigmatic Cerne Giant is none of the above, but late Saxon, possibly 10th century.


    Martin Papworth, a senior archaeologist at the trust, said he was somewhat “flabbergasted … He’s not prehistoric, he’s not Roman, he’s sort of Saxon, into the medieval period. I was expecting 17th century.”

    The geoarchaeologist Mike Allen, who has been researching microscopic snails in the sediment, agreed. “This is not what was expected,” he said. “Many archaeologists and historians thought he was prehistoric or post-medieval, but not medieval. Everyone was wrong, and that makes these results even more exciting.”

    The research has involved studying samples, which show when individual grains of sand in the sediment were last exposed to sunlight. Material from the deepest layer suggest a date range of 700-AD1100.

    It was in the middle of that date range, AD978, that Cerne Abbey was founded nearby. Stories talk about the abbey being set up to convert locals away from worshipping an early Anglo-Saxon god called Heil or Heilith, all of which invite the question, is the giant Heilith?

    For various reasons Papworth said that theory did not ring true. The whole story of the giant is made more confusing by there being no mention of the giant in surviving abbey documents. “Why would a rich and famous abbey – just a few yards away – commission, or sanction, a naked man carved in chalk on the hillside?”

    Documents from the 16th and 17th century also make no reference to the giant, which suggests to Papworth that it was created and then forgotten about, perhaps overgrown with grass until someone noticed the glimmer of an outline.

    Gordon Bishop, chair of the Cerne Historical Society, said the conclusions were as intriguing as they were surprising. “What I am personally pleased about is that the results appear to have put an end to the theory that he was created in the 17th century as an insult to Oliver Cromwell. I thought that rather demeaned the giant.”

    Bishop said it seemed to him likely the giant had a religious, albeit pagan, significance. “There’s obviously a lot of research for us to do over the next few years.”

    More broadly the analysis results shed important light on the phenomenon of chalk hill figures in Britain, said Allen. “Archaeologists have wanted to pigeonhole chalk hill figures into the same period. But carving these figures was not a particular phase – they’re all individual figures, with local significance, each telling us something about that place and time.”

    At 180ft (55 metres) the Cerne Giant is Britain’s largest, rudest and as a result best-known chalk hill figure. He is also the most mysterious.

    Some have said he is Hercules. The more fanciful suggest he was an actual giant slain by villagers as he slept on the hill after a busy day eating their livestock.

    Many people doubt that the phallus is original. “If he does date to the time of the abbey then he is more acceptable with trousers on than without,” said Papworth.

    Asked for his most likely theory on its origins he admitted he was stumped. “I don’t know. I don’t have one. I can’t get my head round it … you can make up all sorts of stories. I don’t know why he is on the hill, I’ve no idea. I can’t work it out. I never would have guessed he would be 10th century.”


    Another article on these recent findings can be found here: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2...ne-abbas-giant


    If I recall correctly local folklore used to believe that women who wished to conceive should sit on the appropriate part of his anatomy!
    "It ain't necessarily so
    The things that you're liable
    To read in the Bible
    It ain't necessarily so
    ."

    Sportin' Life
    Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

  • #2
    I remember hearing something from several years back indicating that originally something was draped over his left arm, with speculation at the time that it might represent a lion skin with the figure therefore likely being Hercules. It seems they've returned full circle with it being Anglo-Saxon, which is what was first suggested back in the 17th cent.

    Now to see if the Wilmington Giant also dates from this time.

    I'm always still in trouble again

    "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
    "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
      I remember hearing something from several years back indicating that originally something was draped over his left arm, with speculation at the time that it might represent a lion skin with the figure therefore likely being Hercules. It seems they've returned full circle with it being Anglo-Saxon, which is what was first suggested back in the 17th cent.
      From my reading I understand it is believed the phallus was added in the seventeenth century.

      Do you have a source on these seventeenth century opinions that the figure was Anglo Saxon?

      Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
      Now to see if the Wilmington Giant also dates from this time.
      It is in Sussex!

      "It ain't necessarily so
      The things that you're liable
      To read in the Bible
      It ain't necessarily so
      ."

      Sportin' Life
      Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
        From my reading I understand it is believed the phallus was added in the seventeenth century.

        Do you have a source on these seventeenth century opinions that the figure was Anglo Saxon?

        It is in Sussex!
        Quick check and first source, Wiki:

        The origin and age of the figure are unclear. Though it was often thought of as an ancient construction, the earliest mention of it dates to the late 17th century. Early antiquarians associated it, on little evidence, with a Saxon deity, while other scholars sought to identify it with a Romano-British figure of Hercules or some syncretisation of the two


        It wasn't a universally accepted assessment as you can see.

        I'm always still in trouble again

        "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
        "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by rogue06 View Post

          Quick check and first source, Wiki:

          The origin and age of the figure are unclear. Though it was often thought of as an ancient construction, the earliest mention of it dates to the late 17th century. Early antiquarians associated it, on little evidence, with a Saxon deity, while other scholars sought to identify it with a Romano-British figure of Hercules or some syncretisation of the two


          It wasn't a universally accepted assessment as you can see.
          Hmm no specific references to any individuals, just Castleden's work. As I recall Aubrey does not mention this figure.
          "It ain't necessarily so
          The things that you're liable
          To read in the Bible
          It ain't necessarily so
          ."

          Sportin' Life
          Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post

            Hmm no specific references to any individuals, just Castleden's work. As I recall Aubrey does not mention this figure.
            Which appears to support speculation that at various times the figure was covered over by plant growth.

            I'm always still in trouble again

            "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
            "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
              Which appears to support speculation that at various times the figure was covered over by plant growth.
              Highly possible but that then raises questions about those other seventeenth century commentators. What did they see that Aubrey [1626-1697] did not, I wonder?
              "It ain't necessarily so
              The things that you're liable
              To read in the Bible
              It ain't necessarily so
              ."

              Sportin' Life
              Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post

                Highly possible but that then raises questions about those other seventeenth century commentators. What did they see that Aubrey [1626-1697] did not, I wonder?
                A century is a long time during which the landscape could have varied considerably. If someone went after a couple of wet years it might not have been noticeable, but if you went after a dry spell, it might be much more apparent.

                I'm always still in trouble again

                "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                  If someone went after a couple of wet years it might not have been noticeable, but if you went after a dry spell, it might be much more apparent.
                  Possibly.
                  "It ain't necessarily so
                  The things that you're liable
                  To read in the Bible
                  It ain't necessarily so
                  ."

                  Sportin' Life
                  Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                    A century is a long time during which the landscape could have varied considerably. If someone went after a couple of wet years it might not have been noticeable, but if you went after a dry spell, it might be much more apparent.
                    However, that raises the question why Aubrey makes no mention of any other contemporary accounts of this figure. He was personally acquainted with a wide variety of different individuals.
                    "It ain't necessarily so
                    The things that you're liable
                    To read in the Bible
                    It ain't necessarily so
                    ."

                    Sportin' Life
                    Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post

                      However, that raises the question why Aubrey makes no mention of any other contemporary accounts of this figure. He was personally acquainted with a wide variety of different individuals.
                      I think that will all depend on what part of the 17th century did he explore that particular portion of the country since according to that Wiki quote earliest mention of it wasn't until the end of the century.

                      Further, did Aubrey mention the similar Wilmington Giant or the Litlington White Horse, or did he not survey that part of southern England?

                      Basically the only immediate likely explanation that comes to mind is that it was overgrown -- maybe, even pretty much wilderness when Aubrey went through

                      I'm always still in trouble again

                      "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                      "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                        I think that will all depend on what part of the 17th century did he explore that particular portion of the country since according to that Wiki quote earliest mention of it wasn't until the end of the century.

                        Further, did Aubrey mention the similar Wilmington Giant or the Litlington White Horse, or did he not survey that part of southern England?
                        I doubt he would have surveyed the Littlington White Horse - according to the English National Trust it was created in the nineteenth century. Are you confusing it with the Uffington White Horse?

                        Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                        Basically the only immediate likely explanation that comes to mind is that it was overgrown -- maybe, even pretty much wilderness when Aubrey went through
                        Have you read Aubrey? He was, among other things, an Antiquary and folklorist and undertook field studies of ancient sites in both Wiltshire [his natal county] and Surrey. You may be aware of his surveys of both Stonehenge and Avebury.

                        It is likely that the site at Cerne was overgrown but it seems surprising that if other 17th century individuals noted it, their writing never came to the attention of Aubrey.
                        "It ain't necessarily so
                        The things that you're liable
                        To read in the Bible
                        It ain't necessarily so
                        ."

                        Sportin' Life
                        Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                          I doubt he would have surveyed the Littlington White Horse - according to the English National Trust it was created in the nineteenth century. Are you confusing it with the Uffington White Horse?
                          There are so many White Horses in the country that I was undoubtedly thinking of another

                          Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                          Have you read Aubrey? He was, among other things, an Antiquary and folklorist and undertook field studies of ancient sites in both Wiltshire [his natal county] and Surrey. You may be aware of his surveys of both Stonehenge and Avebury.
                          I'm familiar with him but never read anything by him. When it comes to reading the actual works of early scientists I'm more familiar with the writings of geologists like Lyell and Sedgwick.

                          Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                          It is likely that the site at Cerne was overgrown but it seems surprising that if other 17th century individuals noted it, their writing never came to the attention of Aubrey.
                          It is hard to guess and nothing but speculation without something more concrete to go on.



                          I'm always still in trouble again

                          "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                          "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                            There are so many White Horses in the country that I was undoubtedly thinking of another
                            Once again your failure to check your facts is duly noted.

                            Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                            I'm familiar with him but never read anything by him. When it comes to reading the actual works of early scientists
                            He was not strictly a scientist in the later understanding of that term, to wit the science of archaeology.

                            Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                            I'm more familiar with the writings of geologists like Lyell and Sedgwick.
                            Who were both, of course, geologists and born one hundred years after Aubrey's death.

                            Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                            It is hard to guess and nothing but speculation without something more concrete to go on.
                            All we know is that Aubrey never mentions it, which of course does not disprove the other seventeenth century references.

                            Originally posted by rogue06 View Post
                            The origin and age of the figure are unclear. Though it was often thought of as an ancient construction, the earliest mention of it dates to the late 17th century. Early antiquarians associated it, on little evidence, with a Saxon deity, while other scholars sought to identify it with a Romano-British figure of Hercules or some syncretisation of the two.
                            On re-reading your link [Wiki] I suspect you have once again become confused when you wrote " it being Anglo-Saxon, which is what was first suggested back in the 17th cent".

                            The text you quoted actually makes no reference that during the seventeenth century there were suggestions to "it being Anglo-Saxon".

                            ​​​​​​​

                            "It ain't necessarily so
                            The things that you're liable
                            To read in the Bible
                            It ain't necessarily so
                            ."

                            Sportin' Life
                            Porgy & Bess, DuBose Heyward, George & Ira Gershwin

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                              Once again your failure to check your facts is duly noted.
                              You're my inspiration for that.

                              Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                              He was not strictly a scientist in the later understanding of that term, to wit the science of archaeology.
                              He would have been considered a "natural philosopher" which was essentially the term used for "scientist" back then. The term "scientist" won't be used for a couple of centuries, until the polymath William Whewell coined the word in the 1830s.

                              Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                              Who were both, of course, geologists and born one hundred years after Aubrey's death.
                              Your point especially given I specifically mentioned that they were geologists?

                              Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                              All we know is that Aubrey never mentions it, which of course does not disprove the other seventeenth century references.
                              You do have a way of stating the obvious.

                              The question is why wouldn't he mention it.

                              Originally posted by Hypatia_Alexandria View Post
                              On re-reading your link [Wiki] I suspect you have once again become confused when you wrote " it being Anglo-Saxon, which is what was first suggested back in the 17th cent".

                              The text you quoted actually makes no reference that during the seventeenth century there were suggestions to "it being Anglo-Saxon".
                              I never said otherwise. The citation even makes it crystal clear that these 17th cent references "associated it, on little evidence, with a Saxon deity" and I even made sure to note that their view "wasn't a universally accepted assessment as you can see."


                              I'm always still in trouble again

                              "You're by far the worst poster on TWeb" and "TWeb's biggest liar" --starlight (the guy who says Stalin was a right-winger)
                              "Of course, human life begins at fertilization thatís not the argument." --Tassman

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