Forum

Author of the Month

White Island on the Ocean (cont.)
Seven Landscape Mysteries of Bronze Age Britain, A Unified Theory
By William Glyn-Jones

And while we are discussing the Long Man, this may also be the place to mention a certain artefact found just to the other side of the Long Man hill, in Friston. Now on show in the Lewes museum, the piece in question is a finely crafted polished ovoid mace-head made from a hard stone with marbled streaks running through it. Such streaked stone was often chosen in Egypt for similar finely crafted polished rounded mace-heads, which could also be ovoid, particularly during the Proto-Dynastic period (Naqada II and III). A mace, by the way, is a shaped lump of hard stone attached to a wooden handle. In Egypt the mace had symbolic connotations and functioned as an insignia of power held by high-level officials and the pharaoh. It is therefore interesting that archaeologists looking at this piece from Friston conclude from the fine workmanship - the same symmetrical curvature evident in the Egyptian examples - that it 'was probably originally made to serve as a symbol of authority', despite the fact that the 'flattened and battered base shows that it was also used as a hammer at some period.' In the simplest terms, the fine craftsmanship and rare ovoid shape of this piece make it a direct parallel to the Egyptian finds, which would be interesting enough anyway, but together with the location of the find at Friston, literally just over the other side of the hill from the highly Egyptionesque chalk figure of Wilmington, it becomes a very interesting object. Mace heads do turn up in British archaeology, but this ovoid example is 'extremely rare'. British examples were not normally polished in this way. (The Lewes Museum also has a sizeable faience pendant from a burial mound at Clayton on the Downs north of Brighton.)


Left, the fine Friston mace head. Right: Egyptian early mace head.
Below left, Proto-Dynastic image of Egyptian king holding mace raised in the Orion-like "smiting" pose.
The Narmer Palette: The triumph of the southern king

Mystery 7: The Club-Bearer

Follow the ancient chalky Ridgeway and it will take you to the site of the Whiteleaf Cross chalk hill marking in Bucks. The Ridgeway also detours to the White Horse of Uffington, known to be ancient, on the way to the Avebury complex, where it finishes at the sacred circle called the Sanctuary, near to Silbury, that hill of chalk blocks. From the Sanctuary the avenue of stones then leads on into the Avebury Henge, once a gigantic ring of bright chalk. From here another long distance path leads out across the landscape: the Wessex Ridgeway. Mostly following an ancient route, this will take you at last via a meandering route to the village of Cerne Abbas, the site of another chalk hill figure.

Here is the Long Man's brother, the other British chalk giant. The "rude" giant of Cerne Abbas stands naked on the hillside brandishing a club above his head. Again, the age of the figure is a complete mystery. As regards his identity, we may be able to hazard a guess.

Of all the figures of mythology there is none that matches the Cerne Giant half so well as Orion the Hunter. The other Club Bearer of mythology is Hercules, but he is traditionally shown in a kneeling position, and he was not a giant, while Orion most certainly was. He was in myth one of the giant sons of Poseidon, and he is of course a constellation, the brightest in the sky in fact. In his constellation he is shown in the very posture depicted by the Cerne man. Orion the Hunter with his hunting dogs Canis Major and Minor turns up in British tradition as Welsh Arrawn the hunter with his white hounds of the Otherworld (pronounced "Ar-ah-oon"), and as the etymologically related English Herne the Hunter, also with his dogs, and from which name "Cerne" may even derive, if it was once pronounced with the hard "c" that so easily mutates to and from the "h" over time. Paul Newman's book on the British chalk figures, Gods and Graven Images, even says that in certain lights a canine figure has been seen on the grass in the Canis Major position to the left of the giant.

Now here is something to note: the villages of Cerne Abbas in Dorset, home of the Cerne giant, and Wilmington in East Sussex, home of the Long Man, are on the very same line of latitude, an East-West line stretching across the landscape. A dull mind ignores this. A lively mind wants to know why. While the Long Man with his two poles seems to have some connection to the idea of facing north, toward the circumpolar region, receiving the perfume that comes from the lotus growing before the throne of Osiris, Orion walks the southern sky.

And like the Long Man with his two staffs, the stick-bearing Orion-the-Hunter has a strong link to Egyptian funerary tradition, to the extent that they are both found on Tut's gold shine. Indeed, the image of the hunter pursuing water-fowl through the marshes of the Afterlife with raised throwing-stick in hand and other hand raised before him in the Orion pose (just as Orion pursues the flock of birds constellation the Pleiades across the sky in Greek myth) was a much employed standard painted onto the walls of Egyptian tombs, designed to invigorate the Ka (or Spirit Double) of the occupant by virtue of it being filled with the essence of Eternity. Comparing the Cerne Giant with the Egyptian stick-bearer images it is easy enough to imagine the former having morphed over the ensuing millennia into the form of the latter.


Orion - The Bright Club Bearer of the Sky
Left to Right : Cerne Abbas, Tomb of Nakht and Modern Constellation

Cerne's feet point sideways while his shoulders point forwards, and in this respect his image conforms to the Egyptian artistic rules, but he conforms in more ways than this. Below here we see how he matches up to the canon of measures that was used in depictions of human figures during the Old Kingdom in Egypt. Adherence to this canon was fairly universal in Egyptian art.

PreviousPage 1Page 2Page 3Page 4Page 5Page 6Page 7Page 8Page 9Next

Site design by Amazing Internet Ltd, maintenance by Synchronicity. G+. Site privacy policy. Contact us.

Dedicated Servers and Cloud Servers by Gigenet. Invert Colour Scheme / Default