17 July 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

The Mysterious Origins of the Cerne Abbas Giant Finally Revealed

There’s a huge chalk image of a man with a powerful erection and no clothes on his butt located in the hills of Dorset, England. After centuries of speculation, the origins of the Cerne Abbas Giant may finally have been determined, according to a recent study.

The Cerne Abbas Giant is a large rural drawing carved into the chalk hillside in the village of Cerne Abbas, Dorset, England. Spanning approximately 180 feet (55 meters), this figure’s origins likely date back to ancient times, but its exact purpose remains uncertain. Some interpret the figure as carrying natural symbolism related to fertility and sexuality, while others see it as purely symbolic of ancient beliefs.

Some even postured that the figure was meant to make a mockery of Oliver Cromwell, the 17th-century statesman who was jokingly dubbed “England’s Hercules” by his enemies. According to this theory, the prominent phallus was to mock Cromwell’s Puritanism.

But now, after hundreds of years of debate, academics believe they have the answer to the hillside riddle and declared the figure probably depicts the Greek hero Hercules. Hence, he was probably created as a pagan idol during the Iron Age in Britain.

Historians suggest the hill the huge chalk carving is located on could have once been a mustering point for Anglo-Saxon troops, with the giant acting as a rallying symbol. However, the story was later rewritten by meddling monks, perhaps hoping to secure the fortunes of the local patron saint.

In a paper published in journal Speculum, researchers say the giant was adopted by Christians who claimed it depicted their saint. It also argues the ‘British god’ idea was a myth which arose from a mistranslation.

The researchers note that Hercules is almost always depicted in artworks with a club, as well as other motifs seen on the Cerne Abbas Giant, such as nudity and prominent ribs.

Historians believe they have now answered the mystery of what Dorset's Cerne Abbas carving is meant to depict - with academics suggesting it shows Greek hero Hercules.
Historians believe they have now answered the mystery of what Dorset’s Cerne Abbas carving is meant to depict – with academics suggesting it shows Greek hero Hercules.

“At first glance, an early medieval date seems odd for a figure which looks like the classical god Hercules,” Dr Helen Gittos and Dr Thomas Morcom write.

“The club is the clue. Hercules was one of the most frequently depicted figures in the classical world, and his distinctively knotted club acted as an identificatory label, like the keys of Saint Peter or the wheel of Saint Catherine. He was usually depicted in motion, as at Cerne, and the ribs, lower line of the stomach, and nakedness are all typical,” the study authors explain.

“Alongside his club, he was most often associated with his lionskin mantle, and it is likely that one of these originally hung from the giant’s left arm,” they add.

Despite the pagan imagery, the artwork is relatively recent and dates to the early Middle Ages, sometime between 700 CE and 1100 CE. Researchers say there are many references to Hercules in the British Isles during the time the giant was constructed.

Another theory came to prominence after the giant was dated, with people claiming it was a depiction of an Anglo-Saxon god called Helith. This has been discounted by modern theories.

Researchers Morcom and Gittos traced the root of this idea to one text, with the name Helith coming from a 13th-century mistranslation of the Latin word for Elijah, the Old Testament prophet. It seems that Helith never existed.

Even though the most recent study purports to have provided an answer to the giant’s origins mystery, scientists acknowledge that the real significance of the Cerne Abbas will likely remain a matter of debate for many years to come.

SPECULUM

Related Articles

From Researchers, a New İnterpretation of Norse Religion

26 February 2021

26 February 2021

Recent research on pre-Christian Norse religions shows that the variation in Norse religions is far greater than previously imagined. Ten...

An ancient bronze hand may be the oldest and longest example of Vasconic script

20 February 2024

20 February 2024

Researchers have discovered rare evidence of an enigmatic ancient language on a 2,000-year-old bronze hand. The inscription on the hand...

A Mysterious Partially Submerged Structure in Ireland is a Prehistoric Tomb, archaeologist says

25 October 2022

25 October 2022

New research has revealed that a mysterious structure found many years ago on the eastern shore of Cork Harbor in...

The altar of Zeus Temple discovered in western Turkey

1 September 2023

1 September 2023

Archaeological excavations in the ancient city of Magnesia, located in the western province of Aydın’s Germencik district, have uncovered the...

Egypt opens King Djoser’s 4,500-year-old tomb after a 15-year restoration

15 September 2021

15 September 2021

Egypt on Tuesday showcased an ancient tomb structure belonging to the cemetery complex of King Djoser, a pharaoh who lived more than 4,500...

Ötzi the Iceman Had Dark Skin, Bald Head and Anatolian Ancestry -New study rewrites ancient history

17 August 2023

17 August 2023

New DNA analysis by German researchers shows that the famous glacier mummy Ötzi may have had dark skin, dark eyes,...

Oregon may be home to oldest human occupied site in North America

12 July 2023

12 July 2023

Where and when the first humans appeared in North America is a contentious issue that many disagree on, and this...

Egypt dig unearths 41 mln-year-old Whale in desert -Tutcetus rayanensis-

12 August 2023

12 August 2023

Paleontologists in Egypt announced the discovery of a new species of extinct whale that inhabited the sea covering present-day Egypt...

To The West of Turkey Ancient Quarry Found

28 March 2021

28 March 2021

Turkey is very lucky in terms of ancient settlements. It is home to many unexplored artifacts, along with well-preserved ancient...

A 2900-year-old collection of fossilized shark teeth found in the City of David, one of Jerusalem’s oldest Parts

5 July 2021

5 July 2021

Scientists discovered an inexplicable collection of fossilized shark teeth at a 2900-year-old archaeological site in Jerusalem’s City of David, one...

A new study reveals the Achaemenid Kingdom paid its workers silver

21 September 2021

21 September 2021

A new study on inscribed clay tablets that were used in the treasury archives of the Achaemenid Empire revealed that...

Archaeologists unearth the long-lost homestead of King Pompey in Lynn

3 July 2024

3 July 2024

Archaeologists from the University of New Hampshire (UNH) and a historian from Northeastern University believe they might have found the...

The ancient city of Kastabala will soon have a colonnaded Street

4 September 2021

4 September 2021

The archaeological excavation of the ancient city of Kastabala in Osmaniye Province in southern Turkey continues. Kastabala-Hierapolis is one of...

In Medieval burial ground, a rare embroidered Deisis depicting Jesus Christ was discovered

26 February 2023

26 February 2023

Russian archaeologists have uncovered a rare embroidered Deisis depicting Jesus Christ in a medieval burial ground. 46 graves have been...

2,300-year-old Buddhist temple discovered in Pakistan

23 December 2021

23 December 2021

Remains of a 2300 years old Buddhist Temple have been discovered in Northwest Pakistan by a joint team of Pakistani...