A giant figure of a man that was cut into a hill in southern England centuries ago has been updated with – a face mask.
Police are investigating the “criminal damage” to the Long Man of Wilmington, a 235ft figure carved into a chalk slope in East Sussex.
The giant landmark has long baffled archaeologists and its origins remain unclear.
The mysterious Long Man is Europe’s largest portrayal of the human form, dating back to at least 1710.
However on Tuesday – some 311 years later – it was discovered that someone had painted a mask on to the protected site.
Sergeant Tom Carter from Sussex Police said: “Whilst this damage may have been perpetrated for humour or some other reason, the actions that have been taken are unacceptable.
“The Long Man of Wilmington is protected by law as a Scheduled Ancient Monument for its historical significance; on top of this the figure is well known and enjoyed by the local community and this criminal damage is an affront to those who work to maintain this heritage asset for the enjoyment of all.”
Mark Harrison, of Historic England, said: “Historic England is working closely with Sussex Police Rural Crime Team to identify the offenders who have caused damage to this protected archaeological site.
“We will also be liaising with the owners in order to provide advice and guidance to restore the Long Man of Wilmington.”
Anyone who witnessed activity on the hillside or who has information as to who caused the damage is asked to report online or call 101 quoting serial 687 of 27/01.
Pictures of the edited figure were shared by Jeremy Christey, who spotted it while walking his dog.
He tweeted: “The Long Man of Wilmington, Sussex has inherited a rather slender mask. Good man.
“To be safe, he probably needs to pull it down a touch tbh…”