Police in England are hunting for two vandals who have wilfully defaced the historic English “long man” geo-glyph with a tasteless Covid-19 facemask.
Police in England are hunting for two vandals who have wilfully defaced the historic English “long man” geo-glyph with a tasteless Covid-19 facemask. The “Long Man of Wilmington” is a giant chalk figure located on the slope of Windover Hill near Wilmington, East Sussex, in England. This scheduled and protected monument was designed to appear in proportion when viewed from below. The Long Man chalk figure is 72 meters (235 ft) long, with a “stave” (staff) in each hand.
A pair of criminals recently painted a Covid-19 facemask over the head of this iconic English landmark, and sergeant Tom Carter of Sussex Police told Reuters, “it was totally unacceptable.”
The Long Man of Wilmington, Sussex has inherited a rather slender mask.
— Jeremy_Christey FRSA (@Jeremy_Christey) January 27, 2021
The Cerne Abbas Giant of Dorset was vandalized last year in a stunt by an Amazon PR team marketing the latest Borat film. They added a blue mankini and a giant blue message on either sides of the hillside figure causing widespread outrage. (PeteHarlow / CC BY-SA 3.0 )
From Amazon’s Cerne Abbas Giant Mankini To The Long Man Mask
Mark Harrison of Historic England , who manages the site, told Sky News that the heritage charity is working closely with the Sussex rural crime team to identify the offenders who have caused damage to the protected Long Man of Wilmington archaeological site. This act of archaeological vandalism comes only months after the National Trust blasted the new Borat film for “defacing” the 55-meter (180-ft) long Cerne Abbas Giant chalk figure “with a mankini.”
Depicting a nude male figure with a giant erection and a large club in its right hand, the Cerne Abbas Giant is scheduled monument formed by shallow trenches cut into the hill side which were backfilled with light chalk rubble.
In October 2020, I wrote an article for Ancient Origins about the Amazon public relations team that marketed the Borat film. They were accused by the National Trust of “wilfully defacing” this historic English monument, located near the village of Cerne Abbas in Dorset.
English folklore suggests the Cerne Abbas Giant represents an ancient Celtic fertility god and local traditions say frolicking on the hillside always results in pregnancy. However, archaeologists say the first written reference to the giant dates to 1694 AD.
Mixed Theories About The Long Man Chalk Figure
Returning to the Long Man of Wilmington, Professor John North suggested it was created by “a Neolithic astral religion around 3480 BC,” at which time he claimed the figure represented the constellation Orion’s movement across the ridge above it.
The Long Man of Wilmington temporarily defaced with the addition of a painted facemask. ( @Jeremy_Christey)
Other researchers have assigned Romano-British and Anglo-Saxon provenances to the Long Man of Wilmington. In 1766 AD, William Burrell etched what is the first known image of the giant figure holding a rake and a scythe rather than the two rods we see today.
Professor Martin Bell of the University of Reading, in association with Aubrey Manning’s Open University programme Landscape Mysteries , which specifically studied the chalk hill figures of England, told The Telegraph in 2003 that they believe “the figure dates from the Early Modern period – the 16th or 17th century AD.”
Protecting England’s Chalk Figures From New Pranks
What is important here is that authorities don’t drop their standards because of these monuments’ relatively young age. No matter if they are 5,000 or 500 years old, both the Cerne Abbas Giant and the Long Man of Wilmington are iconic monuments of British heritage and Amazon’s defacing of the former monument “rightfully” caused outrage last year.
We might never know whether the Long Man of Wilmington was a fertility symbol, an ancient warrior, a surveyor, or just an early-18th-century folly. However, in the words of the Rev A.A Evans , “The Giant keeps his secret and from his hillside flings out a perpetual challenge.”
The damage caused to the Long Man of Wilmington will now be assessed, and the monument will be restored. With cases of archaeological vandalism on the increase in England one can only imagine what might happen in England if Borat’s inspirational “mankini” stunt becomes a trend.
There are 16 known white chalk hill horse figures in the UK. Seventeen, if you include the painted one at Cleadon Hills. Maybe a horse betting company will spray paint their logos onto these monuments, and walk away like Amazon, Borat and these recent vandals, none of which have been charged. They all just walk away . . .
Top image: The Long Man of Wilmington in January 2021 temporarily defaced with the addition of a painted facemask. Source: @Jeremy_Christey
By Ashley Cowie