White Horse

The White Horse from above
The White Horse from above

The Uffington White Horse is the most impressive chalk hill figure in Britain.

Though on the Berkshire Downs, the White Horse has been in Oxfordshire since county boundary alterations in the 1970s. With its uniquely elegant lines, at around 3000 years old it is now thought to be the oldest hill figure in the country.

The image is a stylised representation of a horse some 114 metres (374 feet) in length. Until 1995 the Uffington White Horse was thought to date from the Iron Age, but in the 1990s a new dating technique called optical stimulated luminescence dating (OSL) was developed.  This revealed the Horse to be some 3000 years old, dating it to the late Bronze Age.

Images similar to the outline of the Horse have been found on coins from that period, and there is a theory that the figure represents a horse goddess connected with the local Belgae tribe.

Traditionally the Horse was ritually scoured every seven years under the jurisdiction of the local Lord, who had to fund the event. The festival – for that is what it became – could last for over three days and consisted of fun and games, traditional cheese rolling, wrestling and other pastimes. The festival was re-created by the people of Uffington in 2000 as part of their Millennium celebrations.

Uffington Castle, also on White Horse Hill, is an impressive Iron Age hill fort, once protected by timber walls on top of the surviving banks and ditches.

Come to the Museum to see finds from White Horse Hill and an explanation of the archaeological work carried out there.