Cerne Giant

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Large hill figure cut into chalk downland on the west‐facing side of the Cerne Valley in central Dorset depicting a naked male figure 55 m high. The Giant stands upright, striding to the left, in a naturalistic pose, with his nipples, ribs, and genitals boldly represented. A line across the lower torso is taken to be a belt. His penis is erect. His head is small for the size of the torso, but the face is well formed, with large eyes, eyebrows, nose, and small mouth. In his right hand he holds a large club raised above his head, and there is some evidence that his left hand once held a lion‐skin or cloak. The figure was made by cutting the lines as narrow trenches into the hillside and then packing them with white chalk. There are records of the Giant being maintained since the late 17th century ad, but opinion is split about the date of its construction. Some favour a later prehistoric or Romano‐British origin and see the Giant as an image of Hercules; others see it as a 17th‐century marvel made during the upheavals of the Civil War—perhaps a symbol of the Dorset Clubmen or a caricature of Oliver Cromwell.


T. Darvill, K. Barker, B. Bender, and R. Hutton, 1999, The Cerne Giant: an antiquity on trial. Oxford: Oxbow Books

Subjects: Archaeology.

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