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Mystery Glyphs: Uffington’s White Horse, A 3,000-Year-Old Masterpiece

Ancient History

Mystery Glyphs: Uffington’s White Horse, A 3,000-Year-Old Masterpiece

While everyone is most likely familiar with Peru’s Nazca lines, these magnificent ancient symbols aren’t the only ones created thousands of years ago by our ancestors.

What many people do not know is that similar glyphs can be found in Europe as well.

Specifically, in the United Kingdom, where we find the so-called hill figures.

Despite not being many, some of these strange glyphs are believed to be extremely old.

Aerial view from Paramotor of Uffington White Horse. Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

One of the British glyphs dates back from prehistoric times, and the rest of them date back a few centuries.

But the Nazca Lines and the British glyphs, despite being different, have something in common: we do not know much about them. Neither who made them nor what they mean.

In this case, the British Glpyhs were created on hillsides covered with grass. The British figures were designed to be seen from a distance and not from a perpendicular position, although they are best appreciated when viewed from above.

Many of these hill figures have been identified across the UK. For example, only in Wiltshire County, there are up to 14 white horse figures. But most of them are recent say experts, suggesting they date back from the seventeenth century.

The White Horse of Uffington is believed to be the oldest of all the hill figures.

The massive structure is 110 meters long and was formed from deep trenches filled with crushed white chalk.

The ditches that form the lines of the silhouette leave the chalk rock floor in view, which gives it its characteristic white color, and makes the figure visible with greater intensity.

Of course, over time, the chalk will turn black, and that is why until the 19th century it was customary to rebuild the horse every year adding more chalk.

In 2008 they even had to add 17 tons to avoid their disappearance in the undergrowth of the hill.

A Satellite view of the Uffington White Horse.Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

While this figure is believed to be the oldest one in the UK, it’s also the most mysterious one.

Its actual meaning remains a mystery, although it is thought that it could be political in nature since coins from the Iron Age that show horses have been found near its location.

It is also not known if what it represents is a horse or another animal.

If the figure is indeed a horse, it may be related to solar cults, fertility or the end of time, all subjects to which white horses were associated in the mythology of many ancient peoples.

What we do know is that it is a prehistoric work, documented and cited already by medieval sources.

The medieval Welsh book Llyfr Coch Hergest [The Red Book of Hergest] (1375–1425) states: “Gerllaw tref Abinton y mae mynydd ac eilun march arno a gwyn ydiw. Ni thyf dim arno.” This translates as “Near to the town of Abinton there is a mountain with a figure of a stallion upon it, and it is white. Nothing grows upon it.”

Ivan

Ivan is editor-in-chief at ancient-code.com, he also writes for Universe Explorers.
You may have seen him appear on the Discovery and History Channel.

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