Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Travelling through Oxfordshire: Uffington White Horse and Uffington Castle

About 30 miles to the south you can find the chalk hill figure of a horse, the so-called Uffington White Horse. Recent OSL dating (optically stimulated luminescence dating, basically dating when minerals were last exposed to sunlight) of the soil directly underneath the lowest level of the chalk filled trenches which constitute the horse figure, showed that it was made during the late Bronz Age (early urnfield culture), at about 1000 BC and was already present when they built the Iron Age hill fort a little bit further up White Horse Hill. This of course leaves the question whether it was supposed to be a horse at all, since the horse was re-introduced into Britain by the Celts. Maybe scouring changed it to something more familiar in medieval times. So it could as well have been a dog or a dragon.

You can see the horse in full on this photo made by the Royal Air Force in 1929:

D. Woolner, New Light on the White Horse, Folklore 78 (2), 1967, fig. B
Detail of the head area:

The horse was scoured every seven years since medieval times (with some periods of discontinuity) up to the very present. This has been a great idea, and although it probably changed the apperarance of the horse it also saved it from oblivion. However, I have to say that P and C openly refused to take part in next year's scouring. Even the prospect of taking part in the traditional feast after the deed accomplished couldn't persuade them.

Also on White Horse Hill is Uffington Castle, the aforementioned Iron Age hill fort.This is how it looks from the long barrow Wayland's Smithy:

And here are the banks and ditches of this hill fort. While excavating it in the 19th century, remains of timber walls were found on top of the banks.

These are not Iron Age warriors but us, standing on the bank of the hill fort and enjoying the slight breeze (actually we were nearly blown off the bank and into the ditch):

This is Dragon Hill, as seen from the hill fort, a smallish and already in ancient times artificially flattened hillock with views onto White Horse. It is said that S. George slew the dragon at this very spot, so  the 'horse'  might well have been a dragon after all, or rather a symbol for heathen faith. There is a white spot of chalk in the middle of the artificial platform where the dragon spilled its blood and no grass can grow anymore.

I'm finishing with yesterday's promised view of the landscape. Here a view as seen from the horse:

And just to let you know that I am still cooking and because this blog entry has much too much green in it, a recipe I tried from Bryanna Clark Grogan's blog Notes from the Vegan Feast Kitchen, a Turkish-style potato casserole:

The recipe is included in her new book World Vegan Feast which will be released in August 2011. It was very yummy, although next time I will use lentils instead of minced soy for even more yummieness :)

And for desert a super easy semolina pudding made with coconut milk and marinated strawberries:


  1. Thanks for posting this! Wonderful pictures of the White Horse!

  2. @ Bryanna: my pleasure :) I so much enjoyed this recipe especially since all the new potatoes are coming in right now!

  3. nice, even in the prospect of so much archaeology

  4. Beautiful pictures. I loved the white horse the most as it reminds me of the drawing my friend used to do in beach sand.

  5. @wordpress developers for hire:
    Yes, chalk figures are fascinating and I guess there was much more 'perishable' art in the past, like sand drawings of your friend you mentioned, or carved trees and so on. Glad the art is still alive :)

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