Iron Age Hill Figure
Uffington, Oxfordshire OS Map Ref SU302866
OS Maps - Landranger 174 (Newbury & Wantage), Explorer 170 (Abingdon, Wantage & Vale of White Horse)
As it is carved into a westward facing hill it naturally appears on its side in this image (zoom and pan)
site that is best seen from the air, the Uffington White Horse stands (or should
that be gallops ?) on a hillside close to Wayland's
Smithy to which legend links it, although the horse is a much later addition.
The figure, that may represent either a horse or a dragon, is turf cut down to
the underlying chalk layer and is 110 metres long and 40 metres high.
It is first recorded in the 11th century but is though to date from the Iron Age or even from the time of the Roman conquest, as it is similar to depictions of horses from this period (as seen on coins etc.), and as such may represent the tribal emblem of the Dobunni or Atrebates. Also, the Celts were thought to worship a equine deity - the British counterpart of the Gaulish horse goddess Epona.
It is a small possibility that it could date from the 5th century AD and was cut on the orders of the Anglo-Saxon leader Hengist of Kent (Hengist means 'horse'), or it may be even later, perhaps from the 9th century and commemorate Alfred's victory over the Danes. Like the Cerne Giant it is scoured every 7 years while the nearby Uffington Castle hillfort a short distance to the southwest was similarly the site of festivities on these occasions. Legend says that a wish may be made while standing on the eye.
Left - A Second-century Celtic gold coin in the British Museum. Right - Coin of the Atrebates tribe.
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