The White Horse of the Sun

Carved into the chalk of a hillside in southern England, the Uffington White Horse stretches 110 meters from head to tail, it is the only prehistoric geoglyph - a large-scale design created using elements of the natural landscape - known in Europe. Its closest parallel are the Nazca lines in Peru.
Excavations in the 1990s yielded dates that showed it was created during the Late Bronze Age or the Iron Age, sometime between 1380 and 550 BC.

Archeologist Joshua Pollard usually works on sites dating to the Neolithic, a period when people erected large monuments, such as Stonehenge, that were for the most part aligned with astronomical events. That experience led him to wonder if the Uffington Horse could have been designed along similar lines, and he investigated how the geoglyph was positioned relative to celestial bodies[1]. He found that when observed from a hill opposite, in midwinter, the sun rises behind the horse, and as the day progresses, seems to gain on the horse and finally pass it. From the same vantage point, at all times of the year, the horse appears to be galloping along the ridge in a westerly direction, toward the sunset.

Both the form and the setting of the site led Pollard to conclude that the White Horse was originally created as a depiction of a 'solar horse', a creature found in the mythology of many ancient Indo-European cultures. These people believed that the sun either rode a horse or was drawn by one in a chariot across the sky. Depictions of horses drawing this so-called solar chariot have been unearthed in Scandinavia and Celtic coins often show horses associated with the sun.
[Scandinavian Sun Horses]
"The White Horse is depicted as a horse in motion, and the people who created it must have thought that it was responsible for the sun’s movement across the sky," says Pollard. He posits that the geoglyph was not a static symbol, but an animated creature on the landscape, one that connected ancient Britons with the sun.

Over time, though its original purpose was lost, local people maintained a connection with the White Horse that ensured its continued existence. If it weren’t maintained, the White Horse would be overgrown and disappear in 20 years. Each summer, a few hundred local volunteers weed the White Horse and then crush fresh chalk on top of it so that it keeps the same brilliant white appearance it has had for 3,000 years. The site, as it must have throughout millennia, continues to be meaningful to the people around it.

[1] Pollard: The Uffington White Horse geoglyph as sun-horse in Antiquity - 2016

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