Cerne 5: Nancy's Birthday

Day three. We arrived early to decorate the portacabin, turned on the generator, put on the kettle and everything was ready by the time Nancy arrived. The cake was prepared and we sang Happy Birthday and walked up the hill to the trenches …. dispersing, until tea break, to the Giant’s feet and elbows.

We were going through the chalkings. 2019 and 2008 had been removed.

The next layer was a similar 5cm deep compacted chalk and this must be the 1995 event. My earliest memory.

I peeled this off and another pounded smooth surface emerged. This was a thin crust and my trowel broke through into small granules of chalk. The scouring of 1979, filled with ‘kibbled chalk’. The National Trust files still contain the specification which is much the same as that for the 1956 scouring carried out by the same building contractor. There is a map showing a nearby quarry where the old chalk was to be tipped.

Excavation of the 1979 kibbled chalk layer with the compacted later 3 chalkings above.

We shared each other’s trenches at tea break. They all looked much the same. The kibbled chalk edge was slightly uphill from the later chalkings so that the dark soil overlapped the top of it ….and downslope, the soil was silty and grey with dribbles of chalk bits running down the slope.

The kibbled chalk was 40cm deep and it was difficult to see two events in it but perhaps the 1956 was largely replaced by the 1979.. but, there was an upper moist smeared kibbled and a dry loose lower kibbled so perhaps these represented different events rather than moisture penetrating and fusing the chalk fragments from above.

Cake and candles at lunch time. The birthday girl was pleased with the location of her special day and carried a bottle of prosecco to the Giant for the afternoon.

Beyond the kibbled chalk was another thin crust of rammed chalk. We were now the two feet below the turf level which Flinders Petrie wrote about in 1926. At that time he said the villagers cleaned and weeded the chalk to keep it visible. Scouring seemed to mean doing this rather than bringing new chalk to the site.

To be honest, we had gone beyond the place where history could be linked to archaeology.

Then the trowel hit the chunky chalk layer. Big lumps and blocks bound together with white chalk silt.

On the upper edge of this level of the chalk line, my trowel found timber. Our first find. Pete said that he had found wood at a similar level in his elbow trench. Later, Carol had a small section collapse in her right foot trench and another timber stake was revealed.

With three timber stakes in four trenches it seems that at some time the whole Giant outline was picked out with wooden markers driven deeply into the ground.

Nancy called us to order and popped open the bottle. She filled the glasses, lined us up along the Giant’s 8m long penis and…. setting the camera on the tripod..put it on timer ..and just had time to settle herself comfortably between his balls before the shutter clicked..

4 thoughts on “Cerne 5: Nancy's Birthday

  1. These are great posts! Wooden markers/stakes: is it possible that they kept the grass back from growing in the chalk to some extent? We buried wooden boards flush with lawn to separate grass from flowerbeds.

    • Dear Felicity

      I think they were marking the figure out, perhaps to guide a rechalking when it was not easy to see. It is difficult to find out the answer. I’m glad you like the posts.

      With best wishes


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