England’s Centuries-Old Fascination With Carving Giant Horses Into Hillsides
The country’s unbridled enthusiasm for the trend even inspired the creation of the term “leucippotomy.”
BY KERRY WOLFE
ENGLAND (Atlas Obscura, July 20, 2017) — AFTER AN ANCIENT CARVING OF a horse appeared on a hill three millennia ago, giant white horses became a symbol of England’s southeastern region. Dozens of horse-shaped geoglyphs—massive figures made by cutting into a hillside to reveal the layers of chalk beneath—were created over the years. Many of these enormous equines still exist today, though the exact origins of the trend remain mysterious.
Most of these gigantic archaeological artworks are located in the country’s southeastern areas because of the breadth of chalk downland, or hills, that stretch across the region. The white geoglyphs stand in stark contrast to the verdant landscapes they dominate—so much so, they often had to be covered or camouflaged during World War II so the German Air Force couldn’t use them as location markers to aid navigation.
The chalk horses became so prominent they inspired Morris Marples, a mid-20th century author, to coin the term “leucippotomy” to describe the specialized art of carving white horses into hillsides. Britain currently has 16 known white hill horses, but it once had many more that were lost to years of neglect that caused their once-prominent profiles to fade from sight. Read more »