Thames & Hudson, £24.95
Review Edward Biddulph
The White Horse at Uffington, a giant, sinuous hill figure (or, if you prefer, a geoglyph on a par with the Nazca Lines of Peru) has mystified and inspired in equal measure for centuries. Once thought to mark the victory of Alfred’s Saxon army over the Danes, investigations in the late 1980s and 1990s placed it between the late Bronze Age and middle Iron Age.
David Miles, who took part in those excavations, weaves archaeology, science, history, mythology, and literature together to give us the origins, historiography, and significance of the White Horse. But Miles goes further, connecting the landmark to the role of the horse in past and present societies in Britain and beyond.
Like Stonehenge, the White Horse is not isolated, but set within a complex archaeological landscape. Miles clearly has a deep attachment to the horse’s neighbours, not least the Ridgeway, although there is perhaps a hint of special pleading in his arguments for attributing a prehistoric date to the long-distance trackway. Full of rich, fascinating detail, it is a beautifully written thoroughbred of a book.