Cerne Giant the OSL dates

In the end there were 5 Optically Stimulated Luminescence dates. Each from a different soil sample selected from stratigraphic layers.

The following section drawings show the date ranges from the samples and a blue star marks the spot where that particular sample was taken.

The highest sample was from a silty chalk layer between the upper and lower chunky chalk layers. This one failed to provide a date because there were insufficient quartz crystals that could be isolated from the soil.

Trench C right elbow

The second sample lay in a colluvial soil that had eroded down slope of the chalk figure also from the the Giant’s right elbow trench. It provided a middle date of AD 1250 but could span a date range from the late 10th to the early 16th century.

Trench C right elbow

The third sample is from the Giant’s right foot trench, slightly deeper in the deposits and this time about 10cm above the natural chalk on the upslope side of the chalk outline. It provides a similar central mid 13th century date but the accuracy is within a tighter date range AD 1080-1400.

Trench B right foot trench

The fourth sample came from the lowest chunky chalk layer which fills a cutting through the earliest hollow scraped into the natural chalk. The mid date for this is late 10th century, about the time that Cerne Abbey was founded. However, at the earliest it could be mid 7th century (but the 5th sample shows that it cannot be that early) and the latest early 14th century.

Trench C right elbow

The fifth and last date was taken from the colluvial soil that filled the original cutting scraped into the natural chalk hillslope. This sample yielded a central early 10th century date and had a more accurate date band from the beginning of the 8th century to the beginning of the 12th century.

Trench B right foot

What do we make of these datea? Very unexpected. It raises again the medieval references which talk of the locals of Cerne worshipping a Saxon god Helith before the Abbey was founded but this seems unlikely in 10th century Dorset in a society which was largely Christian at that time.

The dates and stratigraphy seem to show a time of abandonment and then recreation but this bottom chunky chalk layer is still medieval and still potentially Saxon so we have to imagine the Giant and the Abbey side by side in the landscape and perhaps he was used as a lesson in the landscape by the monastic community.

He may have worn trousers then as our LiDAR shows the continuation of the belt across the penis and we might suggest that his most noticeable asset was created in the later 17th century when puritanism was on the wane.

He may have been hidden after the Dissolution of Cerne Abbey after 1540 when brightly decorated interiors of medieval churches were whitewashed over.

These dates throw up so many new interpretive possibilities … and…after all our work we are still far from solving the mystery of the Cerne Giant. We’ve just nudged him a little closer to the truth.

2 thoughts on “Cerne Giant the OSL dates

  1. Wow! So amazing he has been there so long and that clever science can now prove it!
    When I pass again, I will look at him with new eyes. Thank you!

  2. Fascinating outcome on the likely date but the LIDAR is equally intriguing. Are there any parallels for topless trouser-wearing figures at this time? I wondered whether the belt might have been just that, with perhaps something like a hunting pouch hanging from it somewhere. Could that be a possibility? Seems more likely than a half-dressed figure. Just a thought.

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