Two Horse Chariot - ritual spear killing
Two horse-chariot, Independent

Ritual Spear Killing at Pocklington?

Two of the most bizarre prehistoric human burials and ritual killings ever found in Britain have been discovered by archaeologists in Yorkshire, reported the Independent.

Excavations near the town of Pocklington have unearthed a pair of mysterious 3rd century BC Iron Age graves containing the skeletons of potentially high status individuals whose dispatch to the next world had featured some very unusual rituals, including possible vampire-killing ones.

The archaeological investigation has revealed that one individual – a warrior aged between 17 and 25 – may have been “killed” twice, or even three times.

Pierced by Nine Spears

Two Horse Chariot Burial - ritual spear killing
Chariot Burial, Independent

A detailed examination of his skeleton shows that, probably after his death, his body had been ritually pierced by nine spears (five with iron tips and four with bone ones). He had also received a potentially lethal blow to his forehead, delivered with a wooden club or other similar weapon.

But as yet, it is unknown as to precisely why his corpse was attacked in this way.

A third possibility is the individual was put in the ground alive and then ritually murdered. Certainly there are other Iron Age examples of ritual murder – particularly in the case of so-called bog bodies.

One potential explanation is that, although he was a respected warrior, he had died of natural causes, and not in battle. Perhaps significantly his shield had been deliberately dismantled. But the ritual spearing of his corpse might have allowed him the privilege of finally dying a warrior’s death.

Afraid of the Dead Warrior?

Working on the Yorkshire Burial site - Two Horse Chariot - ritual spear killing
Yorkshire Burial Site,  Independent

A second possibility could be that, at least after death, he was feared. In many parts of the world there is archaeological and folklore evidence for a tradition in which some corpses (those of suspected “vampires” and other “revenants”) were systematically speared by sharp objects (usually of metal or wood) to “neutralise” them.

What’s more, as in the Pocklington case, the metal or other objects used to pierce the corpse were usually not withdrawn from the dead body, but were left there – in effect, for eternity.

This particular individual was not buried in a bog, but could potentially still have been be a victim of ritual murder. The fact he had received a potentially very deliberate blow to his forehead could be seen as consistent with this explanation.

Not the 1st Burial of its Kind

The Pocklington speared-corpse burial is not the first to be found in Britain – but it is one of the most complete. Over recent decades, at least 14 other examples have come to light in Yorkshire (mostly with between four and 15 spear piercings each).

However, only detailed further research will stand a chance of finally solving the riddle of this extraordinary human interment.

Perhaps significantly, a woman, also aged between 17 and 25 (and suffering from spina bifida), had been interred as a secondary burial immediately adjacent to the burial mound (potentially immediately after its construction). Her relationship to the speared man is not known – but scientists will be investigating to determine whether she might have been his sister.