Archeologists Solve Generations Old Mystery of Britain's 180-Foot-Tall Chalk Figure

An unusual sight has adorned the hillside of southern England for generations, greeting visitors to the historic Cerne Abbas village in Dorset.

A 180-foot-tall naked chalk-drawn figure, also known as the "Cerne Abbas Giant," finally revealed some of its age-old secrets earlier this week when archeologists were able to uncover details about its origins.

The giant image etched into the countryside features a male figure with exposed genitals, holding a large club in one hand. On Wednesday, the National Trust, which owns the land on which the etching is located, tweeted drone footage of the figure, commissioned "in order to create a fly-through video, enabling people to explore the giant virtually."

"Looming over the village of Cerne Abbas, the chalk giant leaves little to the imagination, but one mystery still evades archaeologists; when did he appear?," the National Trust tweeted along with the clip.

"A recent study narrowed it down, but this giant isn't sharing all his secrets. When - and how - do you think he appeared?" further asked in the tweet.

After 12 months of scientific sediment analysis jointly funded by @NationalTrust, the University of Gloucestershire, Allen Environmental Archaeology & the Pratt Bequest, the results are in & it turns out that the #CerneAbbasGiant is....#EarlyMedieval in origin!#GiantNews

— National Trust Archaeology (@NatTrustArch) May 11, 2021

Narrated by National Trust senior archaeologist Martin Papworth, the recording shows the vastness of the figure compared to human scale as a team below collects soil samples for further research.

"So, narrowing that down will narrow down the stories, and help us to make a better narrative for him," Papworth says in the video.

"After 12 months of scientific analysis, the National Trust can, for the first time, reveal the likely age of the Cerne Giant, Britain's largest and perhaps best-known chalk hill figure," said a press release by the National Trust on Tuesday.

For generations, scientists and archeologists have theorized about his age and meaning. According to independent geoarchaeologist Mike Allen, some believe he depicts the demi-god Hercules, an ancient fertility symbol, while others theorize he is soldier and statesman Oliver Cromwell.

"This is not what was expected. Many archaeologists and historians thought he was prehistoric or post-medieval, but not medieval. Everyone was wrong, and that makes these results even more exciting," Allen said in the press release.

Papworth explained that the people have been re-chalking the giant over a long period of time and that the deepest soil samples collected from his elbows and feet rule out theories of him having prehistoric or Roman origins.

Gifted to the trust by the Pitt-Rivers family in 1920, the earliest records show the giant was repaired in 1694, according to a church warden's account. The press release adds that, according to Allen, "the results had shed light more broadly on the phenomenon of chalk hill figures in Britain."

Martin believes that he was created "very early on" but then "became grassed over and was forgotten." But was rediscovered after people saw it "in low sunlight" and "decided to re-cut him again."

National Trust archaeologists, according to the press release, have concluded: "the giant was probably first constructed in the late Saxon period."

Papworth assures fans of the giant's mysterious aura that there is still much to be learned, saying: "But the good thing is, he still does have an air of mystery."

Archeologists solve mystery about Britain's largest figure
Cerne Abbas Giant, Britain's largest (180-Foot-Tall) chalk hill figure, according to recent finds, probably dating back to the Saxon period. CM Dixon/Print Collector/GETTY