Blog Post

Digging for Britain Debunked – Cerne Abbas 2

In the first part of our exploration, we delved into the televised program ‘Digging for Britain’ and scrutinised the methodology employed by the purported experts, questioning the reliability of their conclusions regarding the dating of Cerne Abbas. Our investigation highlighted flaws in the sampling process, particularly the oversight of soil creep, which significantly impacts the interpretation of the site’s history. (Digging for Britain Debunked)

Now, in this second part, our focus shifts to the professionalism of archaeologists involved in such endeavours and, by extension, the broader state of the archaeological profession in the 21st century. A critical lens is turned towards the National Trust’s excavation efforts, particularly the four trenches dedicated to OSL dating. Despite the extensive timeframe of over two years for this undertaking, a conspicuous absence of an official report raises concerns about transparency and the ability for scrutiny by other knowledgeable individuals. This delay in producing and sharing findings with the wider community questions the efficiency and accessibility of archaeological information.

The quality of documentation further comes into question, as hand-drawn cross-sections, seemingly rushed and lacking the meticulous detail expected in rigorous scientific practices, were presented. This not only reveals an apparent ‘back of an envelope’ approach but also underscores a profound oversight by the experts. Despite having two years for scrutiny and examination, critical questions were left unexplored, a shortcoming magnified by the collaboration with the BBC for the televised program.

Digging for Britain Debunked - Cerne Abbas
Digging for Britain Debunked – Cerne Abbas

The absence of a comprehensive and timely report, coupled with the apparent lack of attention to detail in documentation, casts doubt on the thoroughness and professionalism of the archaeological efforts surrounding Cerne Abbas. The urgency to present findings to the media and create a documentary may have compromised the meticulousness required in archaeological endeavours.

This prompts a broader reflection on the state of the archaeological profession itself. The slow pace of report publication, potential gaps in expertise, and a seeming reluctance to subject findings to robust scrutiny raise concerns about the agility and accountability of the discipline in contemporary times.

The deficiencies in the excavation process around Cerne Abbas become more apparent when we scrutinise the placement of the trenches and the sampling locations. The hand-drawn illustrations (which I consider ‘outdated’ in an era of affordable and prevalent 3D high-definition cameras) indicate that samples were taken from the topsoil just above the chalk bedrock. However, a photograph reveals a more accurate location at the bottom of the topsoil near the bedrock chalk, leading to the Saxon date conclusion.

Digging for Britain Debunked - Cerne Abbas
Digging for Britain Debunked - Cerne Abbas 2 10

A critical oversight emerges when we consider the implications of the Saxon date. If accurate, the absence of topsoil dating back thousands of years raises intriguing questions. Three plausible scenarios are explored: deliberate removal of soil before Cerne Abbas construction, the absence of soil initially, or inaccuracies in OSL dating.

Option one, soil removal, implies an intention to obliterate what was originally present, raising logistical questions about the necessity for such an extensive process compared to the simplicity of laying new lines on existing chalk.

Option two speculates on the absence of soil due to something atop the bedrock, a theory we will delve into further.

Option three questions the accuracy of OSL dates, which, if proven, could cast doubt on the entire OSL science.

Option two gains credence when exploring the Post-Glacial Hypothesis, grounded in the notion of elevated water levels in prehistoric times. LiDAR imagery of the site reveals a landscape shaped by Mesolithic waters, with identified natural harbours and Neolithic camps indicating the higher historical river levels. Archaeological findings, including tools and earthworks, support the hypothesis of the river running parallel to the figure being significantly higher during the Neolithic period.

Digging for Britain Debunked - Cerne Abbas
Mesolithic Coastline – Digging for Britain Debunked – Cerne Abbas

This scenario accounts for approximately seven thousand years with no topsoil on the figure. Examining the bedrock reveals signs of extensive water weathering, consistent with chalk erosion over thousands of years. The excavation report and photographs uncover broken chalk at the bottom of the topsoil, demonstrating water-induced erosion and redeposition. The darkened appearance, a result of drying after being broken and re-laid on top, mirrors the common impact of water on solid chalk.

Digging for Britain Debunked - Cerne Abbas
Digging for Britain Debunked – Cerne Abbas
carne abbas osl trench 5
Digging for Britain Debunked - Cerne Abbas 2 11

Further evidence points to Post-Glacial Flooding and a Neolithic origin for the figure, strategically marking the entrance to the harbour. LiDAR maps hint at a man with a balance on his shoulders or head, potentially representing a trading centre surrounded by quarries and mining pits.

Digging for Britain Debunked - Cerne Abbas
Lidar showing the deep chalk cuttings – Digging for Britain Debunked – Cerne Abbas
cerne abbas AI
Oringinal Cerne Abbas figure accoding to AI – Digging for Britain Debunked – Cerne Abbas

The intricacies of Cerne Abbas, when viewed through the lens of geological processes and archaeological evidence, unfold a narrative of ancient landscapes shaped by water, a figure emerging from millennia of erosion, and a Neolithic trading hub leaving its mark on the chalky canvas of history.

NB. The findings at the The Long Man of Wilmington by Prof. Martin Bell shows very similar findings and geology as Cerne Abbas –

Long Man of Wilmington
Digging for Britain Debunked - Cerne Abbas 2 12

“Our method was to machine cut a trench at the base of the slope to look at the sediment sequence, then carefully hand excavate an adjoining strip, recording in three dimensions the positions of all artefacts, no matter how modern, in order to date each layer.

At the base of our trench there were chalk meltwater muds from a time of rapid physical weathering at the end of the last Ice Age. Above these were bowl-shaped features, perhaps tree-throw pits because they contained land snails of woodland habitats, showing this part of the slope had been wooded earlier in the Postglacial. They also contained some flint flakes, so they could be archaeological features.

Over these was a buried soil. Ed Rhodes, formerly of the Research Laboratory for Archaeology at Oxford, now of the Australian National University, has used OSL to date this soil to the mid-2nd millennium BC. The snails show that by this time the landscape was open. Later in the Bronze Age the soil was buried by more soil derived from cultivation at the base of the slope. Snails show the escarpment above was grassland. Many sites on the South Downs show evidence for quite extensive Bronze Age soil erosion. Bronze Age and Neolithic pottery and flints from the basal soil and the colluvium indicate that a settlement was nearby.”

They called the broken chalk we saw in these excavations ‘chalk meltwater muds’ and he is correct but this kind of deposit can only be produced by thousands of years of water erosion not a couple of hundred and his OSL dates confirm this – as just above this level is a OSL date of 2,000 BCE. We have 8,000 years of top soil missing as the site like Carne Abbass as it was covered with river water creating another natural harbour – and would you believe it – it also has a Neolthic Settlement (trading post above it on the top of the hill) indicating these figures were once used as boat markers/sign posts on the raised rivers of the past, before being change in the saxon period and beyond.

Further Reading

For information about British Prehistory, visit for the most extensive archaeology blogs and investigations collection, including modern LiDAR reports.  This site also includes extracts and articles from the Robert John Langdon Trilogy about Britain in the Prehistoric period, including titles such as The Stonehenge Enigma, Dawn of the Lost Civilisation and the ultimate proof of Post Glacial Flooding and the landscape we see today.

Robert John Langdon has also created a YouTube web channel with over 100 investigations and video documentaries to support his classic trilogy (Prehistoric Britain). He has also released a collection of strange coincidences that he calls ‘13 Things that Don’t Make Sense in History’ and his recent discovery of a lost Stone Avenue at Avebury in Wiltshire called ‘Silbury Avenue – the Lost Stone Avenue’.

Langdon has also produced a series of ‘shorts’, which are extracts from his main body of books:

The Ancient Mariners

Stonehenge Built 8300 BCE

Old Sarum

Prehistoric Rivers

Dykes ditches and Earthworks

Echoes of Atlantis

Homo Superior

For active discussions on the findings of the TRILOGY and recent LiDAR investigations that are published on our WEBSITE, you can join our and leave a message or join the debate on our Facebook Group.