Rare Iron Age remains of a chariot and horse skeletons have been unearthed at a Pocklington housing site. It is said to be the first find in 200 years of a chariot with horses and only one of 26 in the UK. Described as being of “international significance”, the finds will shed more light on Iron Age Britain reports the Hull Daily Mail.

Archaeologists at the Burnby Lane site have previously found artefacts including a sword, shield, spears, brooches and pots in a large number of square barrows, dating back to 500 BC. It has now been revealed that 180 skeletons of men, women and children have been found at the site where a housing development is to take place. Archaeologists are working hand-in-hand with the developers.

Pocklington Iron Age Chariot and many more finds

The 2,500-year-old settlement includes more than 75 square barrows that contained 180 skeletons from the Arras Culture – a group of people who lived in the region in the Middle Iron Age as far back as 800BC.

The excavation at the David Wilson Homes development has already revealed objects including a sword, shield and 10 spears, as well as more than 360 amber and glass beads, brooches and ancient pots.

A major focus area of the archaeological analysis will concentrate on whether the population is indigenous or migrants from the continent. Paula Ware, managing director at MAP Archaeological Practice, said: “To date, the east of Yorkshire has the largest concentration of ‘Arras Culture’ square barrows, and naturally these findings have helped to strengthen this.

To date, the east of Yorkshire has the largest concentration of ‘Arras Culture’ square barrows, and naturally these findings have helped to strengthen this.

On the whole this is a hugely important discovery and is a fine example of what can be revealed and discovered if house developers and archaeologists work hand-in-hand to reveal the nation’s hidden history.

More Detail about the spectacular Iron Age Chariot

The chariot was located in the final square barrow to be excavated and on the periphery of the cemetery.  Paula Ware continued: “The chariot at Burnby Lane is only the 26th one to be excavated in the country and the inclusion of horses raises the significance of the burial.
The discoveries are set to widen our understanding of the Arras culture and the dating of artefacts to secure contexts is exceptional.

A circular wheel associated in close proximity to the horse skeleton suggests that the animals played a crucial role in the burial ceremony. The chariot was the rare possession of a high status individual, but the deliberate inclusion of the horses as part of the burial rite is highly unusual.

With a major gap in studies into the Iron Age population, the site is being hailed as of national and international significance, with the discovery helping to shape historians’ understanding of this period.  A major focus of the archaeological analysis will be on the origins of the local Iron Age population and will aim to show whether they were indigenous or had continental connections.

Peter Morris, development director at David Wilson Homes, said:

A study is already underway – set to be the largest of an Iron Age population undertaken in the last 35 years – so the findings will help us to gain a better understanding of the culture and area at the time.

The excavations give a fascinating insight into life some 2,500 years ago, including the people of the Arras culture. They are expected to reveal more detail about the ritual of death in the Iron Age.

Peter Morris, development director at David Wilson Homes Yorkshire East, said:

Following the significant Iron Age findings which were discovered in Phase 1 of our Pavilion Square development on Burnby Lane last year, we are currently investigating the next phase of our project to ensure any other findings that may come to light are preserved accordingly.

Updates from the Independent 30th March

Excavating his grave, archaeologists from a Yorkshire-based company MAP Archaeological Practice – have found the stain ‘imprints’ left in the ground by the rotted wood of the 12 spokes of one of the chariot’s wheels;  the iron tyre (which would have gone round that wheel); the stain imprint of the chariot’s central timber pole (which connected the vehicle to the two horses pulling it); the stain imprint of the box-shaped compartment that the driver (and potentially one companion) stood in; the two horses used to pull the vehicle; the bridle bit; the iron nave hoop band (which went round the axle); and the remains of the driver himself.

The only missing element (almost certainly destroyed by mediaeval ploughing) is the second wheel.

The Ancient Brits were unusually attached to their chariots. While in continental Europe, chariots had largely gone out of fashion (except for racing) by the mid-1st century BC, in Britain they persisted until at least the seventh decade of the first century A.D.- a generation or so after the Roman conquest).

Among the most significant graves, excavated over the past three years, is that of a warrior buried on top of his large roughly rectangular wooden shield  (with the shield’s leather strap arranged around him, so that the decorative bronze strap fastener or other fitting was positioned on top of his torso) .

Another particularly interesting grave is that of a possible enemy warrior. He had died very violently and had sustained serious injuries (possibly caused by a club and a sword) and was buried at much greater than normal depth. Interring a person face down in an unusually deeply dug grave is believed to have been seen as a way of preventing an angry, bitter or evil deceased individual, perhaps even an enemy, from rising from the dead and haunting or hurting the living. It was, potentially, a measure to combat revenants.

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