From analysis of shells found at the site, Britain’s famous chalk giant may have been created not thousands of years ago as originally thought, but during the Middle Ages.
The 180-foot chalk figure of a nude man with giant erect phallus and wielding a club cut into the hillside in Cerne Abbas, England, has entranced tourists and locals for centuries. Called the Cerne Abbas Giant, historians have long pondered its age of creation, with many believing that it dated back thousands of years.
In fact, due to the size of its phallus, local folklore suggests that the chalk giant was originally an ancient fertility symbol or represented a Roman or Greek God (or even Oliver Cromwell). However, it now appears that the giant’s penis was originally more modest in size; it was only during the Victorian era that those restoring the chalk on the hillside merged its bellybutton with its penis, extending it to the 35 feet that it is today.
Equally perplexing is the 1980s discovery that the figure may have once been carved wearing a cloak and standing over a head, perhaps a victim or war or murder.
During recent repair work—the figure needs to be rechalked occasionally to maintain its brilliant white coloration—mollusk shells were found embedded in the soil, a shellfish that was not introduced to the region until around the 13th century. This date of origin is more in alignment with the first recorded mention of the giant in 1694.
Since the repair work, researchers at UK’s National Trust have taken soil samples near the giant’s feet and elbows from under the chalk, in order to more precisely date the carving. Delayed due to delays around COVID-19, the results are expected to be released this fall.