Humanoid Figurine Found In Wimpole: Man Or God, Roman Or Celtic?

Humanoid Figurine Found In Wimpole: Man Or God, Roman Or Celtic?

Archaeologists in England have discovered an ancient humanoid figurine but they’re unsure whether it represents a god, or an everyday person. What do you think? The ancient humanoid figurine is finely detailed with a moustache, a short back and, possibly, a mullet hairstyle. Researchers say it offers a unique insight into the trends among native men in Roman-era Britain. However, what is not yet clear is whether this humanoid figurine depicts an ordinary man, or a divine being, as there are symbolic elements suggesting both possibilities.

The tiny 1st century AD humanoid figurine was unearthed in 2018 by archaeologists while they were pre-excavating a new car park at the Wimpole Estate, a country house located within the Parish of Wimpole, Cambridgeshire, England, about 8.5 miles (13.7 km) southwest of Cambridge.

The humanoid figurine as it was first found at the Wimpole Estate. (National Trust / Oxford Archaeology )

The Meaning Of The Humanoid Figurine Has Been Elusive

An article about the discovery published in The Guardian says the ancient male figure offers “a rare glimpse into ordinary Britons' appearance,” or, into how they conceived their imagined gods.

Shannon Hogan, a UK National Trust archaeologist for east England, told the Guardian that the figure was “originally thought to be a Celtic deity .” However, now National Trust researchers believe it might simply be the face of “your average man.” They probably meant “common,” or “ordinary,” as “average” applies to math and not to any one person.

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What Hogan probably meant was that the man was “human,” and not a deity of the ancient Celtic pantheon . She said there is a lack of both visual and written descriptions of what the native people of Britain looked like and what trends and styles were most popular at any given period in history. The researcher pointed out that the man’s neat haircut “appears to be a mullet,” which most media outlets are headlining with, but she was quick to add that the hairstyle might have been formed in the manufacturing process. However, reverting to the idea that the humanoid figurine depicts actual styles of the day, she added that the creator’s decision to omit a beard “was deliberate.”

The Celtic horned god of the woods, known as Cernunnos, is depicted here holding a torc in his right hand. (Nationalmuseet / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Symbols Of The Elite? Or Of The Divine?

The big question in all this is whether the humanoid figurine depicts a Roman or Celtic man, or a Roman or Celtic god?

According to Chris Thatcher from Oxford Archaeology East “the figure offers a look into the aesthetics and symbolism of the age.” Thatcher speculated that the figure depicted someone “of influence and power” because he is holding “a torc.” This open-ended metal neck ring, sometimes gold and silver, was a status symbol in Celtic Britain.

In many depictions of the gods and goddesses of Celtic religion and mythology divine beings are either wearing or carrying a torc, which symbolizes their divinity. This is especially true in depictions of the horned god of the woods, “ Cernunnos,” who is often shown carrying a torc.

The collection of over 300 artifacts discovered at the Wimpole carpark site are revealing to archaeologists how the place might have functioned in Roman ruled Celtic Britain in the 1st Century AD.

Since the first artifacts were unearthed in 2018 it has been theorized that the site started out as a remote trading station and then, over time, grew to become the center of an established trading network.

And because such a rare and valuable figurine was discovered at the site, it stands as further evidence of the location having served both the Celtic and Roman populations as “a local hub.”

The archaeologists who unearthed the 300 objects at the site of the planned car park have forwarded their best guess as to what the humanoid figurine was made for. They told the Guardian that “it would have originally been connected to a spatula used for mixing medicines or wiping the wax tablets that were used for writing.”


Archaeological dig uncovers ancient settlement at Wimpole

Copper alloy human figurine found at Lamp Hill James Fairbairn OAE

As part of the exciting new visitor welcome and car park project in 2018, archaeologists investigated part of the ancient landscape of Wimpole revealing a Late Iron Age to Early Roman (c.100BC – 150AD) rural settlement.

On a scorching day in July 2018, Oxford Archaeology East started the dig and over the next three months uncovered a site that surpassed their expectations. The remains were extremely dense, representing several phases of changing land use over a few hundred years from livestock enclosures to farming plots and settlement reorganisation.

Two roundhouses were revealed, one with its central hearth intact, although in general, structural remains on site were relatively scarce. This may have been largely due to the 19 th century coprolite mining, which had disturbed much of the potential &lsquocore&rsquo of the settlement. Toward the &lsquoedge&rsquo of the settlement was also a rudimentary corn dryer and a near complete but broken Roman pot found within a ditch indicates that local pottery was made on site at Wimpole!

This settlement at Lamp Hill seems to have been more than just simple subsistence living. The metalwork, as well as imported pottery and fragments of a glass vessel, suggests a strong trading network with a liking for military objects.

So far we have perhaps in the region of 300 metal objects including coins, cosmetic implements, horse harness fittings, Roman military uniform fittings, a spearhead, an axe head, key handles, brooches, a ring as well as scrap lead and a number of iron nails and other utilitarian objects.

Further analyses of the artefacts and metalwork found at Lamp Hill during the 2018 excavation have led to some new discoveries. First, and foremost, the little figure originally thought to represent Cernunnos, the god of fertility, is no longer thought to be this deity. After a good clean and a number of specialist consultations, we now know this is a 1st century AD object and seems to represent an unknown Celtic deity. The torc in his hands is still clear and a small recess at the centre is suggestive of a decorative inlay, now lost. The figure probably originally served as the handle of a spatula. It may have been lost or deposited at Wimpole by inhabitants of early Roman Britain at the end of the Iron Age.

Chris Thatcher from Oxford Archaeology East explained: &ldquoFinds such as this give a rare and fascinating insight into aesthetics and symbolism in the latest Iron Age. The extent to which his hairstyle is typical of contemporary styles will never be known for certain. However, we think the combination of him holding a torc - associated with status - and forming the handle of a spatula - either used to mix medicines, or wax for writing tablets - speak of influence and power. The fact that he was found on a site with so much other evidence for it being a local hub is wonderful and appropriate.&rdquo


Haircut 100: Tiny statue uncovered by National Trust archaeologists reveals a 1st century hair style.

The tiny 1st century figure of a Celtic deity found by National Trust archaeologists shows remarkable detail, including a moustache and details of its hair style. National Trust - Oxford Archaeology East - James Fairbairn

A hair style which may have been popular in East Anglia during the 1st century AD has been revealed following the cleaning of a tiny 5cm-high figure of a deity, found by National Trust archaeologists.

The figure was one of the most striking finds of an excavation at Wimpole in Cambridgeshire and is a copper alloy human figurine made in the 1st century AD which seems to represent an unknown Celtic deity. Prior to cleaning and research, it was suggested that it represented &lsquoCernunnos&rsquo, the god of fertility.

The archaeologists were surprised by the detail which has survived on the figure after so long beneath the ground. A tiny moustache is now clearly visible and the figure&rsquos hair, which may represent 1st century trends or how the deity was normally shown, can be seen to be neatly shaped at the front and long but tidy at the back.

National Trust archaeologists and colleagues from Oxford Archaeology East investigated part of the ancient landscape of the National Trust&rsquos Wimpole Estate as part of the new visitor welcome and car park project in 2018 and revealed a late Iron Age to early Roman rural settlement. Further analyses of the artefacts found have led to some new discoveries.

Shannon Hogan, National Trust Archaeologist for the East of England, said:
&ldquoThis figure is an exceptional find and thanks to careful conservation and cleaning, we can now see some remarkable detail. His hairstyle and moustache are clear, which might be indicative of current trends or perhaps &lsquotypical&rsquo for depictions of this particular deity.

&ldquoThe artefact dates to the 1st century AD, and whilst possibly of Roman manufacture, exhibits very Celtic traits such as his oval eyes. The torc it is holding - an open-ended metal neck ring - is still clear and a small recess at the centre is suggestive of a decorative inlay, now lost.

&ldquoWe have extremely limited knowledge of what ordinary people of England at that time looked like, so this beautifully detailed figure might just be giving us a tantalising glimpse into their appearance, or how they imagined their gods.&rdquo

The figure probably originally served as the handle of a spatula. It may have been lost or deposited at Wimpole by inhabitants of early Roman Britain at the end of the Iron Age. It is a reminder of the ways in which the Celtic religion shared features with the Roman religion during the Roman occupation of Britain from AD43 to 410, when both had multiple deities responsible for different aspects of daily life.

Chris Thatcher from Oxford Archaeology East added: &ldquoFinds such as this give a rare and fascinating insight into aesthetics and symbolism in the latest Iron Age. The extent to which his hairstyle is typical of contemporary styles will never be known for certain. However, we think the combination of him holding a torc - associated with status - and forming the handle of a spatula - either used to mix medicines, or wax for writing tablets - speak of influence and power. The fact that he was found on a site with so much other evidence for it being a local hub is wonderful and appropriate.&rdquo

The excavation team at Wimpole found a site that surpassed their expectations. The remains represented numerous phases of changing land use over a few hundred years from livestock management to large ditched enclosures that become a focus of deposition and finally, later Roman settlement reorganisation centred around arable production.

The settlement is believed to have been at the centre of a strong trading network, with imported pottery as well as around 300 metal objects uncovered during the dig. They included coins, cosmetic implements, horse harness fittings, Roman military uniform fittings, a spearhead, an axe head, key handles, brooches, as well as scrap lead and a number of iron nails.


2,000-year-old figurine of Celtic fertility god discovered in Cambridgeshire

Archaeologists excavating a car park in Cambridgeshire have discovered a rare 2,000-year-old figurine of a Celtic fertility god.

The metal figurine is just two inches tall, and is thought to date back to the second century AD.

Experts believe it depicts Cernunnos - the Celtic god of nature, life and the underworld.

While previous figurines of Cenunnos have been discovered, these were all carved in stone. This is the first time that a metal version has been discovered in the UK.

Read More
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Speaking to The Telegraph, Stephen Macaulay, Deputy Regional Manager at Oxford Archaeology East, said: “The face of the figurine has been rubbed away, but we see similar figures of Cernunnos, so it’s like finding a worn version of Jesus on a crucifix, it’s the shape you expect to see.

“He was an important God to the Celts, but this shows how accepting the Romans were of other religions, they often just merged the Gods with their own.

Read More
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“The Romans really ran their empire like the British did, they would conquer and then reinstate the people who had already been in charge.

“The Wimpole story is interesting as it gives us a snapshot of local people living alongside the legionnaires as they travelled up and down the country along Ermine Street.”

Archaeology

Alongside the figurine, the researchers found a range of other treasures, including coins, Roman military uniform fittings, an axe head, and jewellery.

These items will now be cleaned and analysed, before being put on display at Wimpole.


Archaeology breakthrough: Stunned researchers may have found unknown Celtic 'deity'

Researchers uncovered the high copper alloy figurine while carrying out excavation duties on the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire. The 5cm tall statuette, experts claimed, could offer a new perspective into the lives of men in Roman-era Britain, and in particular the types of hairstyles they would have had. It was found on the proposed site for a car park, and the model shows that men of the era had “moustaches and mullets”.

National Trust archaeologist for the east of England, Shannon Hogan, examined the piece, claiming it could “very well reflect the face of your average man” – or be of an unknown Celtic God.

She said: “We have so few visual or written depictions from the Romans of what the native people looked like, so it’s tempting to say he was designed based on what people looked like or what the current styles or current trends were then.”

The model’s neat haircut, Ms Hogan noted, could have been that way simply because it was easier to carve when producing the artefact.

However other researchers argue the move to exclude aspects such as facial hair may have been done on purpose.

Archaeology breakthrough: Stunned researchers may have found unknown Celtic ‘deity’ (Image: National Trust/Oxford Archaeology East/James Fairbairn/PA)

Archaeology breakthrough: Stunned researchers may have found unknown Celtic ‘deity’ (Image: National Trust/Oxford Archaeology East/James Fairbairn/PA)

Ms Hogan continued: “They could have put a beard in there – that could have been quite easily done – but they haven’t, so it could very well be reflecting sort of the face of your average man.”

It was among hundreds of other artefacts found, with archaeologists detailing how the model would have formed part of a spatula, which has its links to mixing medicines.

It is still unclear whether the figure is Roman or Celtic, but among the theories of exactly what it was depicting was that it could be that of a Celtic God.

Ms Hogan told The Guardian in February: “He hasn’t been likened to any particular Celtic deities, that we know of, but then there are some that don’t have visual depictions.

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Archaeology breakthrough: Stunned researchers may have found unknown Celtic ‘deity’ (Image: National Trust/Oxford Archaeology East/James Fairbairn/PA)

“So he could be a deity, or he could be just an anthropomorphic piece of the tool which he was a part of.”

She added: “The torque it is holding – an open-ended metal neck ring – is still clear and a small recess at the centre is suggestive of a decorative inlay, now lost.

“We have extremely limited knowledge of what ordinary people of England at that time looked like, so this beautifully detailed figure might just be giving us a tantalising glimpse into their appearance, or how they imagined their gods.”

Chris Thatcher, from Oxford Archaeology East, also offered an insight into the piece, and said it helps shape the “aesthetics and symbolism” of the period.

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Archaeology breakthrough: Stunned researchers may have found unknown Celtic ‘deity’ (Image: National Trust/Oxford Archaeology East/James Fairbairn/PA)

Archaeology breakthrough: Stunned researchers may have found unknown Celtic ‘deity’ (Image: National Trust/Oxford Archaeology East/James Fairbairn/PA)

As he is holding the torque, Mr Thatcher suggested, the model is expected to be someone of influence and power.

According to the BBC, he added: “Finds such as this give a rare and fascinating insight into aesthetics and symbolism in the latest Iron Age.

“The extent to which his hairstyle is typical of contemporary styles will never be known for certain.

“However, we think the combination of him holding a torc – associated with status – and forming the handle of a spatula – either used to mix medicines, or wax for writing tablets – speak of influence and power.”

Archaeology discoveries (Image: EXPRESS)

Ms Hogan underlined the find’s significance, by describing that it was rare to find such pieces that offer an insight into how people viewed themselves in Roman Britain.

She concluded: “We didn’t have the details.

“You couldn’t see the eyes, you couldn’t see the ears or the hair, you could see that he was holding what looked like a torque.

“He was this faceless person from the past, one of the unknown individuals from the unknown people that have left traces of archaeology that we’re now digging up.”


Mullets were in vogue for Iron Age Britons, a tiny statue has revealed

Mullets were in vogue for Iron Age Britons, archaeologists have revealed after uncovering a tiny 1st century statue in a car park building site.

While digging up a visitor centre and parking bays at the National Trust’s Wimpole estate in Cambridgeshire, experts unearthed a 5cm-high figurine which offers a rare glimpse of style in ancient Britain.

The 2000-year-old bronze statuette depicts a male figure sporting a "mullet", with hair cropped at the sides but longer on top and at the back, along with a small moustache.

The everyday appearance of ancient Britons is unclear due to biased Roman sources and a lack of realistic artwork, but the discovery of a detailed contemporary depiction suggests that the style synonymous with the 1980’s was on-trend in Celtic society.

“That hairstyle, you could compare it to a sort of modern day mullet”, said Shannon Hogan, National Trust archaeologist for the East of England.

“Mullets have come in and out of fashion. It just shows that hairstyles go in cycles the way fashion goes in cycles.

“Maybe it just happens in thousands of years instead of decades.”

The figurine found in 2018 was crafted in early Roman Britain and may be a depiction of Celtic fertility god Cernunnos, which after extensive cleaning was revealed to be holding a torc and a ceremonial spatula used to mix medicines, and sporting a distinctive haircut.

Other evidence of hairstyles is scarce, with Julius Caesar writing that swamp-dwelling Britons shaved “all parts of the body except the head and the upper lip”, and Strabo commenting the hair of the largely blonde population “differs in no way from a horse’s mane”.

Most fantastical Celtic statuary is also unreliable as a source for ordinary appearance, but the fine detail of the 1st century AD Wimpole find suggests it depicts a cut familiar to the person who crafted it.

Ms Hogan said: “History has romantic ideals of what Celtic men and women would have looked like. There is a bit of legacy with that, and there are problems with that.

“The art, the human portrayals in metal work, is very, very stylised. It’s not like classical sculpture. That’s why this is so tantalising, to find that level of detail on a hairstyle and moustache.

“They are making the effort to do that. That could be symbolic… Or that style could be really integral.”

It is not clear how widespread the Iron Age mullet was, as hairstyle may have been governed by tribal customs, and it is thought there would have been “regional styles and variations”.

Ancient Wimpole would have stood at the cross-roads of roads leading to larger urban centres, and sophisticated city trends may have overtaken Celtic styles as Roman ideas spread after conquest in 43AD

Ms Hogan said “Certain parts of the country are influenced by larger towns, just as people today are impacted by the fashion of London.

“People further out are bringing those trends into their local tribe, trying to elevate themselves with those same fashions”.

The bronze statue found at Wimpole has a small opening on the bottom, indicating it would have been placed on the end of a ceremonial spatula connecting to medicine or mixing wax for writing.

Chris Thatcher, who worked on the site with Oxford Archaeology East , said the item suggests the “power and influence” of the Romano-British person who owned it.

The piece was unearthed along with imported pottery and 300 metal objects, including Roman military uniform fittings, spearheads, cosmetic implements, and brooches.


Contents

The Giant is located just outside the small village of Cerne Abbas in Dorset, about 48 kilometres (30 mi) west of Bournemouth and 26 kilometres (16 mi) north of Weymouth. The figure depicts a naked man and is of colossal dimensions, being about 55 metres (180 ft) high and 51 metres (167 ft) wide. It is cut into the steep west-facing side of a hill known as Giant Hill [3] or Trendle Hill. [4] [5] Atop the hill is another landmark, the Iron Age earthwork known as the "Trendle" or "Frying Pan". [6] The figure's outline is formed by trenches cut into the turf about 0.6 metres (2 ft 0 in) deep, and filled with crushed chalk. [3] In his right hand the giant holds a knotted club 37 metres (121 ft) in length, [7] and adding 11 metres (36 ft) to the total height of the figure. [8] A line across the waist has been suggested to represent a belt. [9] Writing in 1901 in the Proceedings of the Dorset Natural History and Archaeological Society, Henry Colley March noted that: "The Cerne Giant presents five characteristics: (1) It is petrographic . It is, therefore, a rock carving . (2) It is colossal . (3) It is nude. . (4) It is ithyphallic . (5) The Giant is clavigerous. It bears a weapon in its right hand." [10]

A 1996 study found that some features have changed over time, concluding that the figure originally held a cloak over its left arm and an object, possibly a severed head, beneath its left hand. [11] The former presence of a cloak was corroborated in 2008 when a team of archaeologists using special equipment determined that part of the figure had been lost the cloak might have been a depiction of an animal skin. [12] In 1993, the National Trust gave the Giant a "nose job" after years of erosion had worn it away. [13] [14]

The Giant sports an erection, including its testicles, some 11 metres (36 feet) long, and nearly the length of its head [15] it has been called "Britain's most famous phallus". [16] One commentator noted that postcards of the Giant were the only indecent photographs that could be sent through the English Post Office. [17] However, this feature may also have been changed over time. From a review of historical depictions, the Giant's current large erection has been identified as the result of merging a circle representing his navel with a smaller penis during a 1908 re-cut: the navel still appears on a late 1890s picture postcard. [18] Lidar scans conducted as part of the 2020 survey programme have concluded that the phallus was added much later than the bulk of the figure, which was probably originally clothed. [19]

The hill figure is most commonly known as the "Cerne Abbas Giant" [20] [21] [22] [23] or "Cerne Giant", [20] [24] the latter being preferred by the National Trust, while English Heritage and Dorset County Council call it simply "the Giant". [3] [25] It has also been referred to as the "Old Man", [26] and occasionally in recent years as the "Rude Man" of Cerne. [27] [28]

Although the best view of the Giant is from the air, most tourist guides recommend a ground view from the "Giant's View" lay-by and car park off the A352. [29] [30] This area was developed in 1979 in a joint project between the Dorset County Planning Department, the National Trust, Nature Conservancy Council (now called English Nature), the Dorset Naturalists Trusts, the Department of the Environment, and local land-owners. The information panel there was devised by the National Trust and Dorset County Council. [31]

Early accounts Edit

Like several other chalk figures carved into the English countryside, the Cerne Abbas Giant is often thought of as an ancient creation its written history, however, cannot be traced back further than the late 17th century. Medieval sources refer to the hill on which the giant is located as Trendle Hill, in reference to the nearby Iron Age earthwork known as the Trendle. [4] [6] J. H. Bettey of the University of Bristol noted that none of the earlier sources for the area, including a detailed 1540s survey of the Abbey lands and a 1617 land survey by John Norden, refer to the giant, despite noting the Trendle and other landmarks. [32] In contrast, there are documentary references to the 3,000 year-old Uffington White Horse as far back as the late 11th century. [33]

The earliest known written reference is a 4 November 1694 entry in the Churchwardens' Accounts from St Mary's Church in Cerne Abbas, which reads "for repairing ye Giant, three shillings". [34] [35] In 1734, the Bishop of Bristol noted and inquired about the giant during a Canonical visitation to Cerne Abbas, while in 1738 the antiquarian Francis Wise mentioned the giant in a letter. [36] The bishop's account, as well as subsequent observations such as those of William Stukeley, were discussed at meetings of the Society of Antiquaries of London in 1764. [37] [38]

Beginning in 1763 descriptions of the giant also began to appear in contemporary magazines, following a general increase in interest in "antiquities". The earliest known survey was published in the Royal Magazine in September 1763. Derivative versions subsequently appeared in the October 1763 St James Chronicle, the July 1764 Gentleman's Magazine [37] [39] and the 1764 edition of The Annual Register. [37] [40] [41] [42] [43] In the early 1770s the antiquarian John Hutchins reviewed various previous accounts in his book The History and Antiquities of the County of Dorset, published posthumously in 1774. [37] Noting a local tradition the giant had only been cut in the previous century, he described and drew it as then having three roughly-cut letters between its feet, and over them the apparent Arabic numerals "748", features since lost Hutchins' account was copied by several early 19th century guidebooks. [44] [45]

A map referred to as the "1768 Survey Map of Cerne Abbas by Benjamin Pryce" is held at the Dorset History Centre, [46] though a record at the National Archives notes there is evidence the map may date to the 1790s. [47] By the following century the phallus was invariably omitted from depictions, either in line with the prevailing views on modesty at the time or as it had become grassed over the figure seems to have become increasingly neglected and overgrown during the 19th century until in 1868 its owner Lord Rivers arranged to have the Giant restored "as near as possible to his original condition". [48]

1764, first known drawing from the Gentleman's Magazine with measurements, including the height of 180 feet (55 m) [39]

1764 sketch, perhaps dated to 1763, sent to the Society of Antiquaries of London [49]

1842 drawing by the antiquary and editor John Sydenham [50]

1892 drawing by the author and antiquarian William Plenderleath [51]

Interpretation Edit

18th century antiquarians were able to discover little about the figure's origin: Stukeley suggested that local people "know nothing more of [the Giant] than a traditionary account of its being a deity of the ancient Britons". [52] Several other local traditions have, however, been recorded, including that the Giant was cut in 1539 at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries as a "humiliating caricature" of Cerne Abbey's final abbot Thomas Corton, who amongst other offences was accused of fathering children with a mistress. [53] [54] Hutchins, noting the apparent figure "748" then visible between the Giant's feet, suggested that if this did not refer to the date of an earlier repair such as "1748", it could be a representation of Cenric, the son of Cuthred, King of Wessex, who died in battle in 748: Arabic numerals however did not come widely into use in England until the 15th century. [55] Another 18th century writer dismissed it as "the amusement of idle people, and cut with little meaning, perhaps, as shepherds' boys strip off the turf on the Wiltshire plains." [56]

Richard Pococke, in a 1754 account, noted the figure was called "the Giant, and Hele", [57] while Richard Gough, editor of the 1789 edition of William Camden's 1637 work Britannica, linked the Giant with a supposed minor Saxon deity named by Camden as "Hegle" [58] [59] In the 1760s William Stukeley recorded that locals referred to the giant as "Helis". [58] Stukeley was one of the first to hypothesize that "Helis" was a garbled form of "Hercules", a suggestion that has found more support [58] [60] Pococke had earlier noted that "[the Giant] seems to be Hercules, or Strength and Fidelity". [57] The close resemblance of the giant's features to the attributes of the classical hero Hercules, usually portrayed naked and with a knotted club, have been strengthened by the more recent discovery of the "cloak", as Hercules was often depicted with the skin of the Nemean lion over his arm. [58]

Modern histories of the Cerne Giant have been published by Bettey 1981, Legg 1990, and Darvill et al. 1999. [61] In recent times there have been three main theories concerning the age of the Giant, and whom it might represent: [62]

  • One, citing the lack of documentary evidence prior to the 1690s, argues that the giant was created in the 17th century, most likely by Lord Holles, who held the Cerne Abbas estate by right of his second wife Jane. J.H. Bettey was the first to suggest Holles could have cut the figure as a parody of Oliver Cromwell, [63] though a further tradition local to Cerne was that the Giant was created by Holles' tenants as a lampoon aimed at Holles himself. [64]
  • Another, based largely on an idea developed in the 1930s by archaeologist Stuart Piggott, is that due to the giant's resemblance to Hercules, it is a creation of the Romano-British culture, either as a direct depiction of the Roman figure or of a deity identified with him. [11] It has been more specifically linked to attempts to revive the cult of Hercules during the reign of the Emperor Commodus (176-192), who presented himself as a reincarnation of Hercules. [65]
  • Another is that the giant is of earlier Celtic origin, because it is stylistically similar to an image of the Celtic god Nodens on a skillet handle found at Hod Hill, Dorset, dated to between 10 CE to 51 CE. [66]

Proponents of a 17th-century origin suggest that the giant was cut around the time of the English Civil War by servants of Denzil Holles, then Lord of the Manor of Cerne Abbas. This theory originated in the 18th century account of John Hutchins, who noted in a letter of 1751 to the Dean of Exeter that the steward of the manor had told him the figure "was a modern thing, cut out in Lord Hollis' time". [6] In his History and antiquities of the county of Dorset, first published in 1774, Hutchins also suggested that Holles could perhaps have ordered the recutting of an existing figure dating from "beyond the memory of man". [59] [67]

It has been speculated that Holles could have intended the figure as a parody of Oliver Cromwell: while Holles, the MP for Dorchester and a leader of the Presbyterian faction in Parliament, had been a key Parliamentarian supporter during the First English Civil War, he grew to personally despise Cromwell and attempted to have him impeached in 1644. [68] Cromwell was sometimes mockingly referred to as "England's Hercules" by his enemies: under this interpretation, the club has been suggested to hint at Cromwell's military rule, and the phallus to mock his Puritanism. [69] In 1967 Kenneth Carrdus proposed that the Holles referred to in Hutchins' account was Denzil Holles' son Francis, MP for Dorchester in 1679-80: he claimed that the figures and letters noted by Hutchins could be made to read "fh 1680", though was unable to find much other evidence to support this. [70]

The deepest archeological horizon of the Giant is 1 metre. Results of optically stimulated luminescence testing of samples from this deepest level were published in 2021. Some of these samples support a construction date between 700 CE and 1110 CE , suggesting the Giant was first cut in the late Anglo-Saxon period. As this date coincides with the founding of nearby Cerne Abbey, archaeologist Alison Sheridan speculated that it may have been a challenge to the new religion from the still-pagan local inhabitants, [71] [72] although other scholars have noted that early medieval monks could equally have been responsible for the figure. [73]

Other samples, however, gave later dates ranging up to 1560 one possible explanation is that the Giant may have first been cut in the late Saxon period, but then abandoned for several centuries. [71] As the survey evidence also suggested that the giant's penis is of much later date than the rest of the figure, the National Trust has proposed that the feature could have been added by Holles as part of his parody of Cromwell when re-cutting the older figure. [19]

Modern history Edit

In 1920, the giant and the 4,000 square metres (0.99 acres) site where it stands were donated to the National Trust by its then land-owners, Alexander and George Pitt-Rivers, [74] and it is now listed as a Scheduled Monument. [3] During World War II the giant was camouflaged with brushwood by the Home Guard in order to prevent its use as a landmark for enemy aircraft. [75] [76]

According to the National Trust, the grass is trimmed regularly and the giant is fully re-chalked every 25 years. [77] Traditionally, the National Trust has relied on sheep from surrounding farms to graze the site. [78] However, in 2008 a lack of sheep, coupled with a wet spring causing extra plant growth, forced a re-chalking of the giant, [79] with 17 tonnes of new chalk being poured in and tamped down by hand. [80] In 2006, the National Trust carried out the first wildlife survey of the Cerne Abbas Giant, identifying wild flowers including the green-winged orchid, clustered bellflower and autumn gentian, which are uncommon in England. [81]

In 1921 Walter Long of Gillingham, Dorset, objected to the giant's nudity and conducted a campaign to either convert it to a simple nude, or to cover its supposed obscenity with a leaf. [82] Long's protest gained some support, including that of two bishops, [16] [17] and eventually reached the Home Office. The Home Office considered the protest to be in humour, though the chief constable responded to say the office could not act against a protected scheduled monument.

Archaeology Edit

A 1617 land survey of Cerne Abbas makes no mention of the giant, suggesting that it may not have been there at the time or was perhaps overgrown. [32] The first published survey appeared in the September 1763 issue of Royal Magazine, reprinted in the October 1763 issue of St James Chronicle, and also in the August 1764 edition of Gentleman's Magazine together with the first drawing that included measurements. [37]

Egyptologist and archaeology pioneer Sir Flinders Petrie [83] surveyed the giant, probably during the First World War, and published his results in a Royal Anthropological Institute paper in 1926. [74] [84] Petrie says he made 220 measurements, and records slight grooves across the neck, and from the shoulders down to the armpits. He also notes a row of pits suggesting the place of the spine. He concludes that the giant is very different from the Long Man of Wilmington, and that minor grooves may have been added from having been repeatedly cleaned. [84]

In 1764, William Stukeley was one of the first people to suggest that the giant resembled Hercules. [38] In 1938, British archaeologist Stuart Piggott agreed, and suggested that, like Hercules, the giant should also be carrying a lion-skin. [85] [86] In 1979, a resistivity survey was carried out, and together with drill samples, confirmed the presence of the lion-skin. [87] Another resistivity survey in 1995 also found evidence of a cloak and changes to the length of the phallus, but did not find evidence (as rumoured) of a severed head, horns, or symbols between the feet. [88]

In July 2020, preliminary results of a National Trust survey of snail shells unearthed at the site suggested the hill figure is "medieval or later". [89] Snails dating only from the Roman period (brought from France as food) were not found at the site, while species first found in England from the 13th and 14th centuries were found in soil samples examined. In 2020 the National Trust commissioned a further survey, using optically stimulated luminescence, and the results contradicted earlier research and theories. Samples from the deepest layers of the monument yielded a date range for construction of 700–1100 CE – the late Anglo-Saxon period. [71] [90]

Earthworks Edit

North-east of the head of the giant is an escarpment called Trendle Hill, on which are some earthworks now called The Trendle or Frying Pan. [91] It is a scheduled monument in its own right. [92] Antiquarian John Hutchins wrote in 1872 that "These remains are of very interesting character, and of considerable extent. They consist of circular and other earthworks, lines of defensive ramparts, an avenue, shallow excavations, and other indications of a British settlement." [93]

Unlike the giant, the earthworks belong to Lord Digby, rather than the National Trust. Its purpose is unknown the claim that it was the site of maypole dancing, made by the former village sexton in the late 19th century, was disputed by other villagers who located the maypole site elsewhere. [94] [91] It has been considered to be Roman, [91] or perhaps an Iron-Age burial mound containing the tomb of the person represented by the giant. [95] [96]

Whatever its origin, the giant has become an important part of the culture and folklore of Dorset. Some folk stories indicate that the image is an outline of the corpse of a real giant. [58] One story says the giant came from Denmark leading an invasion of the coast, and was beheaded by the people of Cerne Abbas while he slept on the hillside. [97]

Other folklore, first recorded in the Victorian era, associates the figure with fertility. [58] In the past locals would erect a maypole on the earthwork, around which childless couples would dance to promote fertility. [42] According to folk belief, a woman who sleeps on the figure will be blessed with fecundity, and infertility may be cured through sexual intercourse on top of the figure, especially the phallus. [58]

In 1808, Dorset poet William Holloway published his poem "The Giant of Trendle Hill", [5] in which the Giant is killed by the locals by piercing its heart.

In modern times the giant has been used for several publicity stunts and as an advertisement. For example, Ann Bryn-Evans of the Pagan Federation recalls that the Giant has been used to promote "condoms, jeans and bicycles". [98]

In 1998, pranksters made a pair of jeans out of plastic mesh with a 21-metre (69 ft) inside leg, and fitted them to the giant [99] to publicise American jeans manufacturer Big Smith. [100] In 2002, the BLAC advertising agency [101] on behalf of "the Family Planning Association (FPA) as part of its mission to promote condom-wearing . donned balaclavas and spent Sunday night rolling the enormous latex sheet down the Giant's member". [102]

As a publicity stunt for the opening of The Simpsons Movie on 16 July 2007, a giant Homer Simpson brandishing a doughnut was outlined in water-based biodegradable paint to the left of the Cerne Abbas giant. This act displeased local neopagans, who pledged to perform rain magic to wash the figure away. [103] [104]

An August 2007 report, in the Dorset Echo said a man claiming to be the "Purple Phantom" had painted the Giant's penis purple. It was reported that the man was from Fathers 4 Justice but the group said they did not know who it was. [105]

In 2012, pupils and members of the local community recreated the Olympic torch on the Giant, to mark the passing of the official torch in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics. [106]

In November 2013, the National Trust supported Movember, which raises awareness of prostate and testicular cancer. It authorised the temporary placement of a huge grass moustache on the giant. The moustache was 12 metres (39 ft) wide and 3 metres (10 ft) deep according to the designer [107] but both the National Trust and the BBC reported it as being 11 by 27 metres (36 by 89 ft). [108] [109]

In October 2020, to promote the release of Borat Subsequent Moviefilm people added a 'mankini' and banners stating "Wear Mask." and "Save Live." on the site. [110]

The Cerne Abbas Giant has appeared in several films and TV programmes, including the title sequence of the 1986 British historical drama film Comrades, [ citation needed ] a 1996 episode of the Erotic Tales series "The Insatiable Mrs Kirsch", directed by Ken Russell (featuring a replica of the Giant), in 1997, the series 6 finale "Sofa" of the comedy series Men Behaving Badly, and the 2000 film Maybe Baby directed by Ben Elton. [111] [112]

The giant has also been depicted in multiple video games, including Pokémon Sword and Shield. [113]

Representations Edit

In 1980, Devon artist Kenneth Evans-Loud planned to produce a companion 70-metre (230 ft) female figure on the opposite hill, featuring Marilyn Monroe in her iconic pose from the film The Seven Year Itch where her dress is blown by a subway grating. [114] [115]

In 1989, Turner Prize-winning artist Grayson Perry designed a set of motorbike leathers inspired by the Cerne Abbas Giant. [116] [117] [118] In 1994, girls from Roedean School painted an 24-metre (79 ft) replica of the Giant on their playing field, the day before sports day. [119]

In 2003, pranksters created their own 23-metre (75 ft) version of the Giant on a hill in English Bicknor, but "wearing wellies, an ear of corn hanging from its mouth and a tankard of ale in its hand". [120] In 2005, the makers of Lynx deodorant created a 9.300 square metres (100.10 sq ft) advert on a field near Gatwick, featuring a copy of the Giant wearing underpants, frolicking with two scantily clad women. [121] In 2006, artist Peter John Hardwick produced a painting "The Two Dancers with the Cerne Abbas Giant, with Apologies to Picasso" which is on display at Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. [122] In 2009, the Giant was given a red nose, to publicize the BBC's Comic Relief charity event. [123] In 2011, English animators The Brothers McLeod produced a 15-second cartoon giving their take on what the Giant does when no one is watching. [124]

In 2015, the giant was used as a character in an online comic book published by Eco Comics the giant's character appeared in various adventures accompanying a character based on St George, though his erect penis was removed from the artwork as many "outlets, particularly in the US, refuse any form of nudity in comic books". [125]

The giant's image has been reproduced on various souvenirs and local food produce labels, including for a range of beers made by the Cerne Abbas Brewery. In 2016, the BBC reported that the beer company's logo had been censored in the Houses of Parliament. [126]


Contents

The Greek word nýmphē has the primary meaning of "young woman bride, young wife" but is not usually associated with deities in particular. Yet the etymology of the noun nýmphē remains uncertain. The Doric and Aeolic (Homeric) form is nýmfa ( νύμφα ). [3]

Modern usage more often applies to young women at the peak of their attractiveness, contrasting with parthenos ( παρθένος ) "a virgin (of any age)", and generically as kore ( κόρη < κόρϝα ) "maiden, girl". The term is sometimes used by women to address each other and remains the regular Modern Greek term for "bride".

Nymphs were sometimes beloved by many and dwelt in specific areas related to the natural environment: e.g. mountainous regions forests springs. Other nymphs were part of the retinue of a god (such as Dionysus, Hermes, or Pan) or of a goddess (generally the huntress Artemis). [4]

The Greek nymphs were also spirits invariably bound to places, not unlike the Latin genius loci, and sometimes this produced complicated myths like the cult of Arethusa to Sicily. In some of the works of the Greek-educated Latin poets, the nymphs gradually absorbed into their ranks the indigenous Italian divinities of springs and streams (Juturna, Egeria, Carmentis, Fontus) while the Lymphae (originally Lumpae), Italian water goddesses, owing to the accidental similarity of their names, could be identified with the Greek Nymphae. The classical mythologies of the Roman poets were unlikely to have affected the rites and cults of individual nymphs venerated by country people in the springs and clefts of Latium. Among the Roman literate class, their sphere of influence was restricted and they appear almost exclusively as divinities of the watery element. [ citation needed ]

The ancient Greek belief in nymphs survived in many parts of the country into the early years of the twentieth century when they were usually known as "nereids". [5] Nymphs often tended to frequent areas distant from humans but could be encountered by lone travelers outside the village, where their music might be heard, and the traveler could spy on their dancing or bathing in a stream or pool, either during the noon heat or in the middle of the night. They might appear in a whirlwind. Such encounters could be dangerous, bringing dumbness, besotted infatuation, madness or stroke to the unfortunate human. When parents believed their child to be nereid-struck, they would pray to Saint Artemidos. [6] [7]

Nymphs are often depicted in classic works across art, literature, mythology, and fiction. They are often associated with the medieval romances or Renaissance literature of the elusive fairies or elves. [8] [9]

A motif that entered European art during the Renaissance was the idea of a statue of a nymph sleeping in a grotto or spring. [10] [11] [12] This motif supposedly came from an Italian report of a Roman sculpture of a nymph at a fountain above the River Danube. [13] The report, and an accompanying poem supposedly on the fountain describing the sleeping nymph, are now generally concluded to be a fifteenth-century forgery, but the motif proved influential among artists and landscape gardeners for several centuries after, with copies seen at neoclassical gardens such as the grotto at Stourhead. [14] [15] [16]

All the names for various classes of nymphs have plural feminine adjectives, most agreeing with the substantive numbers and groups of nymphai. There is no single adopted classification that could be seen as canonical and exhaustive. [17] Some classes of nymphs tend to overlap, which complicates the task of precise classification. e.g. Dryads and hamadryads as nymphs of trees generally, meliai as nymphs of ash trees, and naiads as nymphs of water, but no others specifically. [17]

By type of dwelling Edit

The following is not the authentic Greek classification, but is intended simply as a guide:

Classification by type of dwelling
Type / Group / Individuals Location Relations and Notes
Celestial nymphs
Aurae (breezes) also called Aetae or Pnoae [ citation needed ] , daughters of Boreas [18]
Asteriae (stars) mainly comprising the Atlantides (daughters of Atlas)
1. Hesperides Far West nymphs of the sunset, the West, and the evening daughters of Atlas also had attributes of the Hamadryads [19]
• Aegle ditto
• Arethusa ditto
• Erytheia (or Eratheis) ditto mother of Eurytion by Ares [20]
• Hesperia (or Hispereia) ditto
2. Hyades (star cluster sent rain) Boeotia (probably) daughters of Atlas by either Pleione or Aethra [21]
3. Pleiades Boeotia (probably) daughters of Atlas and Pleione [22] constellation also were classed as Oreads
• Maia Mt. Cyllene, Arcadia partner of Zeus and mother of Hermes [23]
• Electra Mt. Saon, Samothrace mother of Dardanus and Iasion by Zeus [24]
• Taygete Taygetos Mts., Laconia mother of Lacedaemon by Zeus [25]
• Alcyone Mt. Cithaeron, Boeotia mother of Hyperes and Anthas by Poseidon [26]
• Celaeno Mt. Cithaeron, Boeotia or Euboea mother of Lycus and Nycteus by Poseidon [27]
• Asterope Pisa, Elis mother of Oenomaus by Ares [28]
• Merope Corinth wife of Sisyphus and mother of Glaucus [29]
Nephele (clouds) daughters of Oceanus [30] and/or Tethys [31] or of Aither [32]
Land nymphs
Alseides (groves) [33]
Auloniades (valley pastures, glens)
Leimakides or Leimonides (meadows)
Napaeae (dells) [34]
Oreads (mountains, grottoes), also Orodemniades
Wood and plant nymphs
Anthousai (flowers)
Dryades (trees)
Hamadryades or Hadryades
1. Daphnaeae (laurel tree)
2. Epimeliades or Epimelides (apple tree also protected flocks) other name variants include Meliades, Maliades and Hamameliades same as these are also the Boucolai (Pastoral Nymphs)
3. Kissiae (ivy)
4. Meliae (manna-ash tree) born from the drops of blood that fell on Gaia when Cronus castrated Uranus [35]
Hyleoroi (watchers of woods)
Water nymphs (Hydriades or Ephydriades)
Haliae (sea and seashores)
1. Nereids Mediterranean Sea 50 daughters of Nereus and Doris [36]
Naiads or Naides (fresh water)
1. Crinaeae (fountains)
2. Eleionomae (wetlands)
3. Limnades or Limnatides (lakes)
4. Pegaeae (springs)
5. Potameides (rivers)
• Tágides Tagus River
Oceanids daughters of Oceanus and Tethys, [37] any freshwater, typically clouds and rain. see List of Oceanids
Underworld nymphs
Lampades Hades torch bearers in the retinue of Hecate
• Orphne Hades is a representation of the darkness of the river Styx, the river of hatred, but is not to be confused with the goddess Styx herself, but she is associated with both Styx and Nyx. She is the consort of Acheron, (the god of the river in Hades), and the mother of Ascalaphus, (the orchardist of Hades). [38]
• Leuce (white poplar tree) Hades daughter of Oceanus and lover of Hades [39]
• Minthe (mint) Cocytus River probably a daughter of Cocytus, lover of Hades and rival of Persephone [40] [41]
• Melinoe Hades Orphic nymph, daughter of Persephone and "Zeus disguised as Pluto". [42] Her name is a possible epithet of Hecate.
Other nymphs
Hecaterides (rustic dance) daughters of Hecaterus by a daughter of Phoroneus sisters of the Dactyls and mothers of the Oreads and the Satyrs [43]
Kabeirides daughters of Cadmilus and sisters of the Kabeiroi [44] or of Hephaestus and Cabeiro [45]
Maenads or Bacchai or Bacchantes frenzied nymphs in the retinue of Dionysus
1. Lenai (wine-press)
2. Mimallones (music)
3. Naides (Naiads)
4. Thyiai or Thyiades (thyrsus bearers)
Melissae (honey) likely a subgroup of Oreades or Epimelides

By location Edit

The following is a list of groups of nymphs associated with this or that particular location. Nymphs in such groupings could belong to any of the classes mentioned above (Naiades, Oreades, and so on).

Location-specific groupings of nymphs
Groups and Individuals Location Relations and Notes
Aeaean Nymphs Aeaea Island handmaidens of Circe
Aegaeides Aegaeus River on the island of Scheria
Aesepides Aesepus River in Anatolia
• Abarbarea ditto
Acheloides Achelous River in Acarnania
• Callirhoe, second wife of Alcmaeon ditto
Acmenes Stadium in Olympia, Elis
Amnisiades Amnisos River on the island of Crete entered the retinue of Artemis
Anigrides Anigros River in Elis believed to cure skin diseases
Asopides Asopus River in Sicyonia and Boeotia
• Aegina Island of Aegina mother of Menoetius by Actor, and Aeacus by Zeus
• Asopis
• Chalcis Chalcis, Euboea regarded as the mother of the Curetes and Corybantes perhaps the same as Combe and Euboea below
• Cleone Cleonae, Argos
• Combe Island of Euboea consort of Socus and mother by him of the seven Corybantes
• Corcyra Island of Corcyra mother of Phaiax by Poseidon
• Euboea Island of Euboea abducted by Poseidon
• Gargaphia or Plataia or Oeroe Plataea, Boeotia carried off by Zeus
• Harmonia Akmonian Wood, near Themiscyra mother of the Amazons by Ares [46] [47]
• Harpina Pisa, Elis mother of Oenomaus by Ares
• Ismene Ismenian spring of Thebes, Boeotia wife of Argus, eponymous king of Argus and thus, mother of Argus Panoptes and Iasus.
• Nemea Nemea, Argolis others called her the daughter of Zeus and Selene
• Ornea Ornia, Sicyon
• Peirene Corinth others called her father to be Oebalus or Achelous by Poseidon she became the mother of Lecheas and Cenchrias
• Salamis Island of Salamis mother of Cychreus by Poseidon
• Sinope Sinope, Anatolia mother of Syrus by Apollo
• Tanagra Tanagra, Boeotia mother of Leucippus and Ephippus by Poemander
• Thebe Thebes, Boeotia wife of Zethus and also said to have consorted with Zeus
• Carmentis,or Carmenta Arcadia She had a son with Hermes, called Evander. Her son was the founder of the Pallantium. Pallantium became one of the cities that was merged later into the ancient Rome. Romans called her, Carmenta. [48]
• Thespeia Thespia, Boeotia abducted by Apollo
Astakides Lake Astacus, Bithynia appeared in the myth of Nicaea
• Nicaea Nicaea, Bithynia
Asterionides Asterion River, Argos daughters of the river god Asterion nurses of the infant goddess Hera
• Acraea ditto
• Euboea ditto
• Prosymna ditto
Carian Naiades (Caria) Caria
• Salmacis Halicarnassus, Caria
Nymphs of Ceos Island of Ceos
Corycian Nymphs (Corycian Cave) Corycian cave, Delphi, Phocis daughters of the river god Pleistos
• Kleodora (or Cleodora) Mt. Parnassus, Phocis mother of Parnassus by Poseidon
• Corycia Corycian cave, Delphi, Phocis mother of Lycoreus by Apollo
• Daphnis Mt. Parnassus, Phocis
• Melaina Dephi, Phocis mother of Delphos by Apollo
Cydnides River Cydnus in Cilicia
Cyrenaean Nymphs City of Cyrene, Libya
Cypriae Nymphs Island of Cyprus
Cyrtonian Nymphs Town of Cyrtone, Boeotia Κυρτωνιαι
Deliades Island of Delos daughters of Inopus, god of the river Inopus
Dodonides Oracle at Dodona
Erasinides Erasinos River, Argos daughters of the river god Erasinos attendants of the goddess Britomartis.
• Anchiroe ditto
• Byze ditto
• Maera ditto
• Melite ditto
Nymphs of the river Granicus River Granicus daughters of the river-god Granicus
• Alexirhoe ditto mother of Aesacus by Priam
• Pegasis ditto mother of Atymnios by Emathion
Heliades River Eridanos daughters of Helios who were changed into trees
Himeriai Naiades Local springs at the town of Himera, Sicily
Hydaspides Hydaspers River, India nurses of infant Zagreus
Idaean Nymphs Mount Ida, Crete nurses of infant Zeus
• Ida ditto
• Adrasteia ditto
Inachides Inachos River, Argos daughters of the river god Inachus
• Io ditto mother of Epaphus by Zeus
• Amymone ditto
• Philodice ditto wife of Leucippus of Messenia by whom she became the mother of Hilaeira, Phoebe and possibly Arsinoe
• Messeis ditto
• Hyperia ditto
• Mycene ditto wife of Arestor and by him probably the mother of Argus Panoptes eponym of Mycenae
Ionides Kytheros River in Elis daughters of the river god Cytherus
• Calliphaea ditto
• Iasis ditto
• Pegaea ditto
• Synallaxis ditto
Ithacian Nymphs Local springs and caves on the island of Ithaca
Ladonides Ladon River
Lamides or Lamusides Lamos River in Cilicia possible nurses of infant Dionysus
Leibethrides Mounts Helicon and Leibethrios in Boeotia or Mount Leibethros in Thrace)
• Libethrias
• Petra
Lelegeides Lycia, Anatolia
Lycaean Nymphs Mount Lycaeus nurses of infant Zeus, perhaps a subgroup of the Oceanides
Melian Nymphs Island of Melos transformed into frogs by Zeus not to be confused with the Meliae (ash tree nymphs
Mycalessides Mount Mycale in Caria, Anatolia
Mysian Nymphs Spring of Pegai near Lake Askanios in Bithynia who abducted Hylas
• Euneica
• Malis
• Nycheia
Naxian Nymphs Mount Drios on the island of Naxos nurses of infant Dionysus were syncretized with the Hyades
• Cleide
• Coronis
• Philia
Neaerides Thrinacia Island daughters of Helios and Neaera, watched over Helios' cattle
Nymphaeides Nymphaeus River in Paphlagonia
Nysiads Mount Nysa nurses of infant Dionysos, identified with Hyades
Ogygian Nymphs Island of Ogygia four handmaidens of Calypso
Ortygian Nymphs Local springs of Syracuse, Sicily named for the island of Ortygia
Othreides Mount Othrys a local group of Hamadryads
Pactolides Pactolus River
• Euryanassa wife of Tantalus
Pelionides Mount Pelion nurses of the Centaurs
Phaethonides a synonym for the Heliades
Phaseides Phasis River
Rhyndacides Rhyndacus River in Mysia
Sithnides Fountain at the town of Megara
Spercheides River Spercheios one of them, Diopatra, was loved by Poseidon and the others were changed by him into trees
Sphragitides, or Cithaeronides Mount Cithaeron
Tagids, Tajids, Thaejids or Thaegids River Tagus in Portugal and Spain
Thessalides Peneus River in Thessaly
Thriae Mount Parnassos prophets and nurses of Apollo
Trojan Nymphs Local springs of Troy

Others Edit

The following is a selection of names of the nymphs whose class was not specified in the source texts. For lists of Naiads, Oceanids, Dryades etc. see respective articles.


Statue’s haircut may have been popular in first century AD – archaeologist

The 5cm-tall figure of an unknown Celtic deity was discovered at the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire.

A tiny statue’s moustache and haircut could have been popular in the first century AD, an archaeologist has suggested.

The 5cm-tall figure of an unknown Celtic deity was discovered during digging on the site of a new visitor centre at the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire.

Work in 2018 revealed a late Iron Age to early Roman rural settlement, and artefacts discovered there have since been subject to further analysis.

It was suggested that the copper alloy human figurine, made in the first century AD, represented Cernunnos, the Celtic god of fertility.

The tiny first century figure of a Celtic deity found at the National Trust’s Wimpole Estate (Oxford Archaeology East/James Fairbairn/PA)

When the figure was cleaned, the moustache and hairstyle detail was revealed.

Its hair appears neatly shaped at the front and long but tidy at the back.

Shannon Hogan, National Trust archaeologist for the East of England, said: “This figure is an exceptional find and thanks to careful conservation and cleaning, we can now see some remarkable detail.

“His hairstyle and moustache are clear, which might be indicative of current trends or perhaps ‘typical’ for depictions of this particular deity.

“The artefact dates to the first century AD, and whilst possibly of Roman manufacture, exhibits very Celtic traits such as his oval eyes.

“The torc it is holding – an open-ended metal neck ring – is still clear and a small recess at the centre is suggestive of a decorative inlay, now lost.

“We have extremely limited knowledge of what ordinary people of England at that time looked like, so this beautifully detailed figure might just be giving us a tantalising glimpse into their appearance, or how they imagined their gods.”

The statue before it was cleaned (Oxford Archaeology East/James Fairbairn/PA)

The figure probably originally served as the handle of a spatula, according to the National Trust.

It may have been lost or deposited at Wimpole by inhabitants of early Roman Britain at the end of the Iron Age.

Chris Thatcher, from Oxford East Archaeology, said: “Finds such as this give a rare and fascinating insight into aesthetics and symbolism in the latest Iron Age.

“The extent to which his hairstyle is typical of contemporary styles will never be known for certain.

“However, we think the combination of him holding a torc – associated with status – and forming the handle of a spatula – either used to mix medicines, or wax for writing tablets – speak of influence and power.

“The fact that he was found on a site with so much other evidence for it being a local hub is wonderful and appropriate.”

The statue’s hair is long but tidy at the back (Oxford Archaeology East/James Fairbairn/PA)

The Roman settlement that was excavated is believed to have been at the centre of a trading network, with imported pottery as well as around 300 metal objects uncovered during the dig.

These included coins, cosmetic implements, horse harness fittings, Roman military uniform fittings, a spearhead, an axe head, key handles, brooches, as well as scrap lead and a number of iron nails.


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