A Giant Call to Arms

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Visitors passing through England’s southwest might have stumbled across the Cerne Abbas Giant, a nearly 200-foot-tall figure cut into the chalky hillside of Dorset county.

Naked and sporting a huge club over its head, the giant has puzzled scholars who have wondered about its origins and purpose. Some theories suggest it was a Celtic god or a fertility symbol.

But now, researchers believe the figure is a representation of Hercules, the ancient Greco-Roman god, and served as a muster station for medieval West Saxon armies preparing to fight Viking marauders, the Guardian reported.

In 2021, a study led by the British-based National Trust charity had already found that the Cerne Abbas giant was created sometime around the 10th century – dispelling previous theories that it was prehistoric.

More recently, University of Oxford scholars began studying the history and location of the area during that period to determine the figure’s creation.

They explained that the West Saxon royal family that ruled the area owned a lot of land there and the hill where the giant was cut into had strategic value: It has impressive views over Dorset and was close to major medieval thoroughfares.

Because of this, the team noted that it served as a special meeting place for large groups, including “mustering an army, usually under the leadership of the local ealdorman (leader).”

The medieval inhabitants also marked the area by creating the giant, which the authors suggest is the mighty Hercules because of his “longstanding characterization … as a model of masculinity, especially among warriors and his currency in the 9th and 10th centuries.”

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