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The Cerne Giant, a figure carved into a hillside in Dorset, has long puzzled historians and visitors alike due to its uncertain age and cultural significance. In a recent paper published in Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies, authors Thomas Morcom and Helen Gittos suggest that the giant can be dated to the early Middle Ages, between 700 and 1100 A.D. This new dating indicates that the giant may have been used as a mustering site for West Saxon armies, shedding new light on its historical context.

Previous attempts to date the Cerne Giant had placed its creation in prehistoric times or the early modern period, but the use of optically stimulated luminescence by researchers from the National Trust has provided a more accurate timeframe for its construction. Contrary to popular belief that the giant was modeled after the Greek hero Hercules, it is now thought that the interest in Hercules during the ninth century may have influenced the creation of the giant, supporting this theory.

One prevalent theory surrounding the inspiration for the Cerne Giant was its connection to Saint Eadwold, with the authors suggesting that residents of a Benedictine monastery in Cerne in the late tenth century may have promoted this idea to associate the giant with Christian beliefs rather than Greek mythology. Additionally, some believed the giant represented a pagan god named Helith, but the authors of the paper argue that this was a misinterpretation of a thirteenth-century Latin text.

The new findings regarding the Cerne Giant’s age and potential historical significance help to unravel the diverse theories about its identity and origins. Despite the conflicting interpretations, the authors assert that understanding the complex history of the giant adds to its allure and continues to captivate those who visit the site. The Cerne Giant’s mysterious past and enigmatic presence on the hillside in Dorset make it a fascinating historical artifact that invites further research and exploration.

Overall, the Cerne Giant’s date to the early Middle Ages provides valuable insights into its possible use as a military site and the influences that may have shaped its creation. By uncovering the historical context surrounding the giant, researchers can now better understand its significance within the evolving cultural landscape of the time. The diverse theories regarding the giant’s identity, from Hercules to Saint Eadwold and Helith, highlight the enigmatic nature of the monument and contribute to its enduring appeal to visitors and scholars alike. The Cerne Giant remains a compelling puzzle that continues to intrigue and inspire further study and debate in the field of medieval studies.

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