Hill Figures

carole

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#1
Anyone know the significance of the older ones?

I know there are some more recent ones displaying regimental badges and ones which were cut to commemorate events such as the Queen's silver jubilee, but what about the older ones, like the White Horse of Uffington (the oldest, estimated age 3000 years)?

Also, there seems to be a preference for white horses. Some connection with Epona, or some other reason?
 

GNC

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#2
Isn't it a bit like ancient cave painting? Draw what you see, and horses must have been an important part of life 3000 years ago. So they drew their trusty horses.

As an aside, I think the Uffington horse looks like a cat.
 

stu neville

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#3
There's been a lot of specualtion about the Uffington hill figure - the theory that it's actually of a dragon has gained a bit of credibilty (the hill into which it's cut is called Dragon Hill, as local legend has it that one was slain there.)
 

carole

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#5
We've got the Kilburn white horse near us (York area), dating from the 1850s, I think.

Apart from the Nazca drawings I can't think of any other country that has anything similar.
 

FelixAntonius

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#6
stuneville said:
There's been a lot of specualtion about the Uffington hill figure - the theory that it's actually of a dragon has gained a bit of credibilty (the hill into which it's cut is called Dragon Hill, as local legend has it that one was slain there.)
There is a fairly good site here:-

http://www.berkshirehistory.com/archaeo ... horse.html

In respect of the Uffington white horse, with the recent evidence that dates it to the late bronze age.
 

gyrtrash

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#7
rynner said:
Bit of a coincidence this thread should pop up today: I've been to the doc today, and in the waiting room I was reading about repainting some white horse figure in some Country mag. (The horse is relatively modern, 1800s I think - forget the name!)

There was a recent article in the 'Dalesman' magazine about the restoration of the White Horse at Kilburn, that Caroleaswas mentioned...
 

darrg

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#8
One in serious need of restoration (or un-restoration, as it was the restoration a couple of years ago by English Heritage that caused the problems) is Westbury. Next to Uffington this has always been the next-best-known in my (admittedly, valueless) experience.

Although it's only 18th century, there does seem to have been a much older and more primitive one on its site. Now, I don't know about you, but to me the whole point of "white horses" (especially in Wiltshire, where there are a good number), is that they are dug into the chalk for which the county is justly famous. Because of this there used to be "scouring" festivals where the locals would go and clean it up and have a bit of a shindig at the same time.

Yet in their wisdom, its custodians decided that concreting it over would be a better idea. That was in the 50s, but recent attempts to restore it have used totally inappropriate concrete that has now turned the horse grey, patchy and rain-stained. I imagine it has also put paid to any likelihood of the original horse being traced by modern scientific earth-disturbance-monitoring methods (if it were ever practical to do such a thing).

Ironically, Westbury has a cement works which is justly infamous for selling dodgy cement ...
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/wiltshire/4195007.stm
 

rynner2

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#9
White Horse of Uffington is a dog, claims vet
Animal expert says 3,000-year-old Oxfordshire landmark may have to be renamed
James Meikle guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 12 October 2010 13.11 BST

It is one of Britain's most-loved ancient hill figures, careering across the downland. Now vets are being urged to question whether the White Horse of Uffington was meant to be a horse at all.

Challenging the traditional description of the Oxfordshire landmark, retired vet Olaf Swarbrick asks whether the "beautiful, stylised" figure might instead be a dog such as a greyhound or wolfhound.

In a letter to the Veterinary Record, his profession's journal, the former cattle and poultry specialist suggests a canine origin for the 110-metre by 38.5-metre animal, which was carefully dug into the downland. He invites alternative theories, too.

Swarbrick says: "Looking at it again, it seems that it is not a horse at all: the tail and head are wrong for a horse and more suggestive of a dog. It appears more like a large hound at full stretch. I thought it may be a greyhound, but an anthropologist suggests it is a wolfhound, which (assuming it is not a horse) makes more sense."

The horse, if it is one, is about 3,000 years old, dating from 1250-850BC if most recent theories are correct. It was earlier believed to have Anglo-Saxon origins, and perhaps to be a memorial to King Alfred's victories over the Danes in the ninth century AD. Doubts over its equine origin have been aired before but written records suggest the hill on whose slopes it gallops has been named after the white horse since at least the 11th century.

Swarbrick told the Guardian: "I was just saying it was not a horse which will perhaps infuriate some archaeologists." If colleagues agreed with him, "quite a lot of people, including the Ordnance Survey, will have to change their terminology".

He added that other horse hill figures in Britain were "quite clearly horses", even if more recent than the Uffington one. And the Long Man of Wilmington in Sussex and Cerne Abbas giant in Dorset were clearly human.

Keith Blaxhall, the National Trust warden for the area, was not convinced. "I think we all think it is a horse," he said, adding that coins from roughly the same period show a similar stylised horse and chariot. "Horses were enormously important. It signified power. You were mobile.

"I have always called it a he, for some reason. There is no 'stallion effect' to it but it is a very proud and powerful symbol on the landscape." There had been claims it might be St George's white charger, he said, but the figure long predated his era. The dog suggestion was new to him. "I have really only heard the theory it is feline because of its sinuous design."

Blaxhall was unworried by the site's equine symbolism being doubted. "It is different things to different people. Who is really to know? It is prehistory. No one wrote anything down. It is just a magical place and people are drawn to it."

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/ ... ington-dog
 

Kondoru

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#11
Oh yes.

And the Cerne Abbas giant is clearly not a man, no man has a tonker like that.

At least not in my experience.

What about the Red horse of Tysoe? Isnt that supposed to be saxon??
 

Fluttermoth

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#14
There's a piece on the BBC about this story too;
Vet's dog theory over ancient Uffington White Horse

The figure dates back 3,000 years to the Bronze Age

The Uffington White Horse has been caught up in an identity battle after it was suggested it could be a dog.

Retired vet Olaf Swarbrick has said the ancient carving in the Oxfordshire hillside is not anatomically correct and has more canine-like features.

But the National Trust, which said soil samples indicated that the figure dated back 3,000 years to the Bronze Age, has rejected Mr Swarbrick's ideas.

However it admitted there were many theories about the carving.

Written records date back to the 12th Century but do not give proof of its exact age or why it was created.

It used to be thought that the figure was constructed by the Saxons to celebrate a victorious battle of King Alfred's. This view is now mainly discredited.

'Perpetual canter'

Mr Swarbrick wrote a letter to scientific journal the Veterinary Record appealing for his fellow professionals to cast their opinion on his claim.

He said he believed the figure looked like a hunting hound at full stretch.

"Anatomically it's not a horse at all," Mr Swarbrick said.
Continue reading the main story
“Start Quote

It's not a complete figure of a horse, it's a suggestion”

End Quote Keith Blacksall National Trust

"It's too long and too lean and it has a long tail - horses don't have a tail the length of that stylised creature at Uffington."
Full story;
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-ox ... e-11531634

Well, I'm not a vet, but I rode horses all through my childhood, and I've kept lurchers and currently have a greyhound, and I still think it's a horse.
The head carriage and neck are all wrong for a dog. I don't quite get his point about the tail either; horses and ponies do have tails that long; not skeletally, certainly, but the hair can get really long, especially on wild populations.
 
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#15
Maybe, you're right about the horse thing, however, back then the horses of choice would probably have been ponies, not unlike those New Forest ponies, or even Shetlands. Would that make a difference?
 

Fluttermoth

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#16
Pietro_Mercurios said:
Maybe, you're right about the horse thing, however, back then the horses of choice would probably have been ponies, not unlike those New Forest ponies, or even Shetlands. Would that make a difference?
No; it wouldn't make a difference, in fact, native ponies like the Shetland and New Forest (and the others, like Exmoors) are even hairier than the modern horse or show pony and their tails grow especially long and thick.
On a side note, I don't know if it's the same everywhere, but I hardly ever see 'proper' native pony types around any more; everyone seems to have small horses instead :(.
 

marion

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#17
Its nothing like a dog! The neck and headset are all wrong. Also I think it used to have a saddle years ago? Just because something looks a little like a dog in places it doesn't make it a dog. Every part of it screams horse. Dog, pah!
 

gellatly68

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#18
I was up at Uffington yesterday (on the equinox - a coincidence: I'm not a ley-line hunting hippy on a tofu bicycle ;) ). It's the first time I've been there for many years. Sitting just above the horse's head, I was utterly astonished to see something that I don't think has ever been commented on before - or at least, I'm not aware of any commentary. From the vantage of the horse's head, looking down onto Dragon Hill and the elevated area it sits on, there is an enormous simulacrum of a horse's head! It is as if you are looking at it from its shoulder. I have a pic which I will share once I've uploaded it, but I am amazed that noone has ever pointed it out before.
 
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#20
?

Unclear. I see the white chalk horse's head just close to where the pic was taken, but nothing else beyond the white horse. What do you mean by simulacra?
 

gellatly68

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#21
A simulacrum - a feature that coincidentally resembles a face or figure, such as pictures of Jesus on a slice of toast :)

If you follow the chalk head down, you'll notice that the hill resembles the profile of a horse's head, with the cheek, mouth and snout formed where the hill curves down to meet the valley floor. Dragon Hill itself forms the eye.
 
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#22
Oh yeah I see it. That's an interesting perspective. Perhaps the originators drew their inspiration from the view. Would like to roam that sacred landscape myself some day.
 

Peripart

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#23
skinny said:
Would like to roam that sacred landscape myself some day.
It's only Oxfordshire, you know. Handy for Swindon and the M4, but not what I'd call that sacred. Mind you, I'm a Brummie heathen, so it's probably safe to ignore me.

Not a bad simulacrum, by the way, gellatly - took me a second to see it, but the left-hand side of the hill is certainly a touch horsey.

I like hill figures, I must say. Last year, I was fortunate enough to be able to take in Cherhill white horse, the figure at Weymouth and the Cerne Giant, all in one holiday. The last was even accompanied by a couple of Chinooks passing over, which made for a strange juxtaposition!
 

Kondoru

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#24
I see no horse...

its not sacred; its just the vale of the White horse...

While you are at it, you can get in Waylands smithy, Seven barrows and the blowing stone.

(I can blow the blowing stone, can you?)
 
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#25
:shock: My mistake. Presumed it was more or less in proximity with Salisbury ancient features. In a completely different shire all together - well outside the modern boundaries and waaaay over on the other side of the M4. Obviously a world away. 8) I live in a wide empty land where anything within 400km is 'neighbours'. I forget how important it is to insist upon the correct wee regional delineations in the UK. Must be frustrating to constantly have to correct all those who just don't know. Might explain all those wars.

Still like to go there some time.
 

Peripart

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#27
skinny said:
:shock: My mistake. Presumed it was more or less in proximity with Salisbury ancient features. In a completely different shire all together - well outside the modern boundaries and waaaay over on the other side of the M4. Obviously a world away. 8) I live in a wide empty land where anything within 400km is 'neighbours'. I forget how important it is to insist upon the correct wee regional delineations in the UK. Must be frustrating to constantly have to correct all those who just don't know.
Please don't be upset by my comment - all I really meant was that, in contrast to your own huge nation, where towns can be hundreds of km from the next, the UK can seem fairly packed in! That is, nowhere (in England at least) is all that remote, and to me, a beautiful and mysterious horse carved into a hillside feels somewhat less mystic when one considers that it's less than 5 miles from a major motorway.

Far from trying to accentuate any silly regional differences, I was suggesting that in the UK - as our PM would say - "we're all in it together". Because I live no more that 200 or so miles from anywhere else in England, I struggle to think of anywhere - even Stonehenge - particularly "sacred". Salisbury Plain may be wild, but it's not the Outback!
 
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#28
No worries, Peripart. Not upset at all. In fact it got me onto Google Maps to check my error, and I've since discovered that Uffington is a good distance from Salisbury. I associated Uffington with the crop circle phenomenon, and since many crop circles tend to cluster around Salisbury and parts nearby I assumed it was there too. Uffington seems to be quite a peripheral sample.

'Sacred' landscape to me is one that has been previously venerated - featuring ancient structures and religious expressions that are part of the landscape from historical times. Doesn't need to be sacred to the current residents though. Not a lot of built ancient history in Australia - more of your stone assemblages, rock art sites and engravings on natural stone surfaces. Stuff like that. Which is why I'm eager to get into the landscapes of Europe. I really enjoyed these ancient places when I was working and travelling in South Korea. Bit of an archaeology buff.
 
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