It's been difficult to solve the mystery
of a very erect giant carved into a hillside, but a recent discovery is bringing scientists closer to the truth.
The Cerne Abbas Giant is a cartoonish ancient figure carved into the chalk hillside above Cerne Abbas in Dorset, England
. It's big, it's holding a club, and it has a fantastic phallus.
have speculated for centuries about the age and significance of the giant carved into the hillside.
According to the National Trust, “many theories have surrounded the giant's identity and origins, including ancient symbol of spirituality, likeness of the Greco-Roman hero Hercules, mockery of Oliver Cromwell, and fertility
There is even speculation that the figure was carved around the body
of an actual giant who was slain by locals.
Scientists extracted soil samples from the giant to determine its age in July 2020, according to the BBC
, but the results were delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic
The scientists did, however, discover "microscopic snails in the sediment samples," which "included species that were introduced into Britain during the medieval period," indicating that the giant was not prehistoric.
The National Trust finally admitted last week that the giant was most likely created in the late Saxon period.
The carving was most likely made in A.D. 908 by a team of archaeologists, according to The Washington Post
“Every archaeologist I know, including me,” Michael Allen, an independent geoarchaeologist and leading expert on ancient mollusks who took part in the dig, told the Post.
He claims that most experts believed the giant was much older or younger than it is.
The giant could have been a medieval creation, but for unknown reasons, it "became grassed over and forgotten," according to National Trust senior archaeologist Martin Papworth in a press release.
“However, at some point, in low light, people saw that figure on the hill and decided to re-cut him,” Papworth explained.
And, while Allen told the Post that determining the giant's age is "exciting," it also raises new questions.
Allen told the Post, "It turns out we don't know everything."
According to the National Trust, the giant's origins are "in a dramatic part of Cerne history."
According to the press release, “Nearby Cerne Abbey was founded in 987 A.D., and some sources believe the abbey was established to convert the locals from the worship of an early Anglo Saxon god known as ‘Heil’ or ‘Helith.’”
“The early part of our time span begs the question, was the giant originally a depiction of that god?”
Scientists are divided, but Alison Sheridan, an Edinburgh-based freelance archaeological consultant, told the New Scientist she has a theory.
“It almost appears to be an act of resistance by the locals to create this fantastically rude pagan image on the hillside,” Sheridan added.
“It's a big two-fingered salute to the abbey.”