Uffington White Horse, UK

The Uffington White Horse is a highly stylised hill figure, 374 feet (110 m) long, cut out of the turf on the upper slopes of Uffington Castle, a largely Iron Age hill fort near The Ridgeway, in the civil parish of Uffington in the English county of Oxfordshire (formerly Berkshire). It is located some five miles (eight kilometres) south of the town of Faringdon and a similar distance west of the town of Wantage. Best views of the horse are obtained from the north, particularly from around the villages of Great Coxwell, Longcot and Fernham. The hill upon which the figure is drawn is called White Horse Hill and the hills immediately surrounding it, the White Horse Hills. The nearest settlements are Woolstone, Kingston Lisle, Knighton, Compton Beauchamp and Uffington.

The figure has been shown to date back some 3,000 years, to the Bronze Age, based on optically stimulated luminescence dating carried out following archaeological investigations in 1994. These studies produced three dates ranging between 1400 and 600 BC. Iron Age coins have been found that bear a representation of the Uffington White Horse re-inforcing the early dating of this artefact, thus further discounting alternate theories that the figure was created in the Early Middle Ages.[1] Numerous other prominent prehistoric sites are located nearby, notably Wayland’s Smithy, a long barrow less than two kilometres to the west.

It has long been debated whether the chalk figure is intended to represent a horse or some other animal. However, it has been called a horse since the eleventh century at least. An Abingdon cartulary, written by monks on vellum, between 1072 and 1084, refers to “mons albi equi” at Uffington (”the White Horse Hill”).

The horse is thought to represent a tribal symbol perhaps connected with the builders of Uffington Castle. A more modern theory suggests that the stylised horse figure acted as a sign to people passing on The Ridgeway advertising horses being sold or catered for at the hillfort. It is quite similar to horses depicted on pre-Roman British coinage and the Marlborough bucket. For centuries, however, local people have maintained that it is a portrait of the dragon slain by Saint George on the nearby Dragon Hill.

Up until the late 19th century the horse was scoured every seven years as part of a more general local fair held on the hill. However, when the regular cleaning is halted the figure quickly becomes obscured. It has always needed frequent work, currently by English Heritage, for the figure to remain visible.
The most significant vicinity feature is the Iron Age Uffington Castle, located on higher ground atop a knoll above the White Horse;[2] this ringfort has a clearly defined expansive earthwork somewhat circular perimeter. Below the higher ramparts is a voluminous defensive ditch.

To the west are ice-cut terraces known as the “Giant’s Stair”.[3] Some believe these terraces at the bottom of this valley are the result of medieval farming, or alternatively were used for early farming after being formed by natural processes. The steep sided dry valley below the horse is known as the Manger and legend says that the horse grazes there at night.

The Blowing Stone, a perforated sarsen stone, which lies in a garden in Kingston Lisle, two kilometres away and which produces a musical tone when blown through, is thought possibly to have been moved from the White Horse site, in the year 1750.

In August, 2002 the figure was defaced with the addition of a rider and three dogs by members of the “Real Countryside Alliance” (Real CA). The act was denounced by the Countryside Alliance.
[Source: Wikipedia]

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