I Hit 3,000-Year-Old Art with a Hammer


– This is the Uffington White Horse and it is somewhere
around 3,000 years old. It was carved into this
hill in Oxfordshire before the British isles
had written history, so we have no idea who made it, or why. And until humanity invented
aircraft millennia later, no one could even really see it properly. The view from the ground here isn’t great. We’re also not allowed
to fly a drone over it, so you’re going to have to make
do with a satellite photo to see the whole thing. This is a 3,000 year old piece of art. And I am now going to smash
part of it with this hammer. – We’re smashing the chalk
into the figure of the Horse today to preserve its appearance
and keep its longevity as people have done for
the last 3,000 years, otherwise it wouldn’t be here. We’re taking new chalk from
the quarry just behind me, about 50 metres away,
10 tonnes in all. And yes, that’s being applied to the Horse
by the use of a club hammer. Before that though, the
Horse is weeded, or “scoured” for the old traditional term, so we can get on to the best surface. We rechalk and scour the
Horse every year now. They’re all volunteers. Previous years
have been years of neglect, maybe 20, 25 years,
but traditionally, back in Victorian times every seven years. But we’re proud of the Horse here, and we want to keep it
looking its best as long as we can. Oxford University,
back in the 1990s, came out with a newly developed sensor back then, which was able to determine
the last time sunlight touched the bottom of the trenches
on which the Horse is founded. And that put it to what we
know today, 3,000 years ago. This is by far the oldest
chalk figure in the country, nothing else comes anywhere near it. We don’t know for sure about
how the Horse was put in, or for what reason. We imagine that there might
have been a wooden tower constructed from which the
seer would be able to direct “left, right, missed a bit,”
that kind of thing. Part of the mystery or the
enigma of the White Horse Hill is what makes it so
appealing to people that come. You can use your own imagination. What would happen if we
didn’t chalk the Horse? I think it would grow
over within 20 or 30 years. That’s what we say to the
people who’ve been kind enough to come along today and help us; is they’re actually contributing
to living history here. Without that human intervention,
it would grass over 25, 30 years, and be lost forever. – This is art that’s been preserved by generation after generation after
generation after generation. Repair and upkeep that’s
been going on for millennia. Through the Roman empire,
the medieval period, a lot of invasions, the English Civil War, the formation of the United Kingdom; all the way up
to the Information Age. Every so often, groups of people have
come together on this hill, to preserve this. It is a very real connection with the folks
who came before us. Smashed it. Smashed it!
…nothing, just nothing.

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