An iconic geoglyph set in a sacred landscape.
There are upwards of fifteen White Horse rock-sculptures in Britain, most cut into chalk hillsides where the turf is thin. They date from the late 18th through to the 20th century, and all pay homage to the White Horse of Uffington, Oxfordshire.
Measuring 110 x 38.5metres (360 x 126ft), it was cut into the undulating chalk hillside before the Romans invaded these islands and is Europe’s only confirmed prehistoric hill-figure. It was long believed to be Iron Age: there’s an Iron Age hillfort within 200m of it, and the animal’s stylised sweeping lines have been found on Celtic coins.
However, excavations in 1996 re-dated it to the late Bronze Age, around 800–700BC, or possibly earlier. Archaeologists also found that the figure hadn’t simply been de-turfed to lay bare the white rock beneath; a series of trenches had been hacked from the chalk to a depth of three feet, and crushed chalk used as an in-fill. The builders, who couldn’t see the entire design as they worked in the folds of the hillside, had meant this to be permanent.
Certainly not for a mere tribal emblem as had been suggested by historians for some considerable time. Archaeologists began to look at Uffington Castle hillfort with a less accepting eye.
It was discovered that the hillfort may have been Iron Age in design, but it had been built on the foundations of a Bronze Age structure. Had Iron Age people in the area not invented, but copied, the minimalistic hill-figure for their coinage? Excavations threw up another anomaly.
Uffington Castle hillfort measures 220 x 160m (722 x 525ft), covers 8.25 acres, and had a surrounding double bank separated by a ditch three metres deeper than is visible today. The inner bank was lined with sandstone and topped by a substantial palisade. This took a lot of building. Why were there so few signs of habitation inside?
Iron Age hillforts are renowned for their concentration of pits and post-holes, for the density of population supported over an extended period. Yet at Uffington there is little evidence of this. Could it be that previous historians had been misreading the landscape?
Hillfort and Horse lie on what is now referred to as The Ridgeway, the remaining 84 miles of a trading route dating back to the Neolithic period which stretched diagonally across the country from the Dorset coast to The Wash in Norfolk. It passes the standing stones of Avebury, numerous long barrows and burial mounds, as well as once-inhabited hillforts, thought to have been built to interact with, or perhaps tax, the trading route.
It is now being suggested that Uffington Castle was not a hillfort but a seasonal religious centre focused on the, by then, ancient White Horse. Yet, if it was a religious site, perhaps other attributes of the near landscape should also be reconsidered.
Immediately below the White Horse is what is referred to as the Manger, where folklore maintains the Horse leaves its hillside to graze one night in the year. The Manger is a bowled amphitheatre shaped during the last Ice Age. Immediately to the right of this image is a natural, yet human-sculpted, chalk knoll known as Dragon Hill, where folklore maintains St George slew the dragon whose spilled blood on its summit forever denied the grass to grow.
The possibility now being considered is that the White Horse was specifically placed above the wide sweep of the Manger, and specifically carved galloping just below the ridge. The midwinter sun rises low over the hillside, almost in line with the extended tail of the Horse. Seen from within the Manger, the sun ‘rolls’ across the Horse’s back to continue its low trajectory into the sky. Was Dragon Hill used as a pre-viewing platform for those organising the religious spectacle? Was it a place of sacrifice to precipitate the spectacle — its name changing over millennia while the memory of the act remained?
Cosmic myths of horses carrying the sun across the sky by day — alone, pulling a chariot, or with human accompaniment — are widely known across the Euro-Asian northern hemisphere, with imagery found on both metalwork and rock art. These myths also tell of the sun being variously transported through the underworld at night. At Uffington the mid-winter sun sets at Wayland’s Smithy, one of the Neolithic long-barrows on The Ridgeway, and the only ‘hollow hill’ in the area to retain its post-Roman name.
The White Horse at Uffington is among the oldest geoglyphs in the world. That it has survived for 3,000 years means that at least once every generation the figure has been ‘scoured’ — encroaching turf removed and the surface re-whitened by ‘puddling’ with fresh chalk. That is a long, ritualised, memory, transcending political upheavals and changes in religious observances, one that continues to this day.
Einstein’s Attitudes on Different Races
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Where Does the Name Wailing Wall Come From?
The nearly 2,000-year-old Wailing Wall, also known as Western Wall, or the “Kotel” for the Jews), is made up of huge blocks of stones up to 100 tons, built without binders. The space in front of the Wall, where houses used to stand not so long ago, functions as an open-air synagogue.
Between the first Israeli-Arab war in 1948 and the Six-Day War in 1967, the area was under Jordanian occupation, and the Jewish people had no access to the Wall.
During the “Six-Day War”, i.e. the third Israeli-Arab War in 1967, Israel occupied the Old City from Jordan and demolished the neighboring Arab residential area. They created a space in front of the Western Wall where the Jewish people could pray undisturbed.
Jewish men in black hats, long black coats, or simply wearing a kippah (Jewish head covering), and women are praying at an ancient wall with a screen separating them from each other.
Some Jewish men murmur prayers and bend rhythmically. It is a sign that they immerse themselves in the prayer with their entire bodies, hearts, and minds, enhancing their closeness to God, as required by the Torah.
There are shelves with countless copies of the Torah and Talmudic scriptures so that anybody can pick one of them. According to the Jewish conception, the prayers carried out at the Western Wall are much more effective.
People slip small papers containing written prayers to God into the cracks of the Western Wall.
Especially on Friday nights and on Saturday, during the sacred time of Shabbat, many families come here to pray. It is also where they celebrate the ritual ceremony of the Jewish children (the bar mitzvah) that marks their entry into adult life. The 13-year-old boys approach the Wall with their relatives accompanied by music and drums. He recites some parts of the Holy Book, the Torah and thus symbolically enters adulthood.
The official deployment of Israeli soldiers also takes place here.
The Jewish folk was first united under King David, who captured Jerusalem and made it his capital. He was probably aware of the tradition that God had designated this place for Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, so he wanted to connect his kingdom with the holy place. King David started the Temple’s construction, which his son Solomon completed around 1000 BC.
It became the First Temple.
The laws of Moses, called the Torah, were preserved in the innermost part of the church. The kingdom of Israel reached its zenith under King Solomon. The First Temple stood for 400 years until 586 BC, when the Babylonians subjugated Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple, and the Jews were deported to the capital, Babylon.
After returning home from the Babylonian captivity that lasted 70 years, the Jews rebuilt the First Sanctuary in the same place. This became the Second Temple.
Herod, the king of Judea, appointed by the Romans, began massive constructions. He extensively remodeled and enlarged the Second Temple around 19 BC to gain the benevolence of the Jews. He surrounded Mount Moriah (today’s Temple Mount) with rectangular retaining walls and refilled the area. As a result, the Temple could accommodate up to 200,000 people.
The expanding Roman Empire destroyed the Second Sanctuary in 70 AD.
The treasures of the Temple were so valuable that Emperor Titus is believed to have constructed the whole Colosseum in Rome with it. The only part that remained intact out of the Second Temple is the Western retaining wall built by Herod, hence its other name, the Western Wall.
The Wailing Wall is nothing more than a remnant of the walls built by King Herod.
Contrary to popular belief, it did not belong to the church itself; it only bordered the Temple Mount from the west side.
Today, there are two mosques on the Temple Mount just above the Wall, the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where Jews cannot pray, though they can access it. The Wailing Wall is thus the closest place for them to their former two Temples that once stood and where they now mourn their destruction.
On the feast of Tisha Beav, the ninth day of the month of Av according to the Jewish calendar, the observant Jews fast to commemorate the destruction of the two Temples. People sit around on the ground, recite the book of the Lamentations of the prophet Jeremiah and mournful liturgical poems (kinot).
Religious Jews in Israel and those living in the diaspora pray daily for the reconstruction. It is part of many Jewish ceremonies, even weddings, to remember the destruction of the Temple.
They also believe that there will be a Third Temple in the future, but it is uncertain when exactly. Perhaps when the Antichrist reveals himself during the Great Tribulation anticipated by the Bible. And the Third Temple will be destroyed by an earthquake at Jesus’ second coming. Some religious Jewish communities are already collecting donations, and some ultra-Orthodox Jews are ready to begin the construction of the Third Temple.