'None of the chalk figures of England has excited so much interest as the mysterious,
dragon-like creature sprawling along the edge of the downs at Uffington. So different from all the other white horses and so obviously very much older than they are, it seemsto present a challenge and demand an explanation.
Who made it?
Morris Marples wrote these words in his well-researched book WhiteHorsesand
Other Hill Figures published in 1949. White Horse Hill is indeed an inspirational landscape moulded and etched by nature and by people through time. Yet the White Horse, the icon of the old Berkshire and the most famous archaeological site in the new
Oxfordshire, remains a mystery.
Traditionally the White Horse was thought to be Saxon. King Alfred was said to have been born in Uffington nearby, and fought his great battle at Ashdown, somewhere in the area. The White Horse was long thought locally to have been carved in celebration.
Archaeologists however have long suspected that it must be Celtic. Stukeley pointed out that the emaciated outline bore a strong resemblance to the horses on Celtic coins, and this was taken up by Stuart
Piggott in a famous article in Antiquity 1931.
Recently however there has been a strong counter-attack by Diana Woolner who wrote an article in Folklore1967 who thought she saw what she called a 'green horse'
larger than the 'white horse' and argued that the white horse was the result of narrowing in the course of 'scouring' - the regular cleaning that was recorded in 1857 by Thomas Hughes in his book "The Scouringof theWhiteHorse". Couldmodernarchaeology be called in to help determine this particular point? Would it be possible to use the new methods of silt dating?
Up to 1979 the White Horse was hobbled within a green paddock, constrained by ploughed fields, barbed wire and a car park. Then the Right Honourable David Astor donated the land around to the
The Trust and the
Inspectorate of Ancient Monuments (the
Above. Aerial view of the White Horse. From its resemblance to the horses on Celtic coins,
it has long been considered to belong to the late Iron Age.
Top right. David
Miles and his dog on White Horse Hill on a winter's morning. In the background is the natural mound known as Dragon Hill. To the left is the end of the long barrow.
Right. The long barrow seen on a winter's morning, the barrow rising green from the surrounding snow. It was later re-
used for Roman burials - a good example of
'continuity' hill. on the
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