Cerne Abbas Giant: is he older than we thought?
Standing proudly on a hillside in West Dorset, the chalk outline of the Cerne Abbas Giant has perplexed visitors for centuries.
To the frustration of archaeologists there is no written record of the anatomically detailed chalk figure before the late 17th century, but clues that the giant was created earlier than that have emerged in the form of suggestive earthworks built nearby.
Rob Wilson-North, historic environment manager for the Exmoor National Park Authority, believes that the giant may date from the late 16th or early 17th century after he discovered a pair of man-made earth mounds and a long gulley protruding from them.
In a letter to Current Archaeology magazine Mr Wilson-North explained that he was left in no doubt about the meaning of the earthworks, which lie in an abandoned garden a few hundred metres from the giant.
"An element of the garden is a pair of round water parterres with a straight watercarrying feature emerging from between them. The similarity on plan of these garden features with the giant's best-known attributes is quite extraordinary," he wrote.
He told The Times that when he drew the outline of his find, he became convinced that the garden designer was paying homage to the giant. "When you look at the plan it's incontrovertible," he said. "Coming off one end of the canal is a big cascade. I'd hesitate to say that water was running out of it, but it could have been. It makes you ask, how would you explain it to ladies who would wander around?"
The gardens were built when the Abbey of Cernes was transformed into a country mansion in the mid-16th century after the Dissolution of the Monasteries. One resident who may have been responsible for the gardens was Denzil Holles, a characterful MP who fought for the Parliamentarians but was a Royalist at heart and who occupied the house from 1642-66. [For Denzel Hollis see:
The Rev John Hutchins, a local historian writing in 1774, claimed that he was told that the giant was "a modern thing" cut by Lord Holles.
For photo etc.