‘Dynamic’ Iron Age horse chariot burial found in Yorkshire


A ‘dynamic’ mode of chariot burial – this, in a nutshell, defines the astounding discovery made in East Yorkshire. Archaeologists from MAP Archaeological Practice, carrying out their excavation at the Iron Age grave site at Pocklington, found a deftly positioned chariot with two horses. The animals were buried carefully with their back legs bent and hooves just off the ground level – thereby creating a motional visual impact as if the horse “were leaping upwards out of the grave.” Moreover, the human occupant, a 40-year-old man, was also positioned in an upright fetal posture, which presents an air of the deceased gloriously rolling into the afterlife.

Interestingly enough, the researchers have hypothesized that the horses’ heads were possibly kept above the surface level – as a distinctive marker for the grave, although, quite unsurprisingly, these anatomical parts were lost to the rigors of time. As for the occupant, he was certainly a man of high standing in that Iron Age society, with evidence of his head being buried with six piglets, along with a shield and a bedecked brooch.


And while East Yorkshire is known for its Iron Age horse burials, with one pertinent discovery made last year entailing two well-preserved animals, this particular ‘chariot grave’ is rather unique in its scope. As Paula Ware from MAP Archaeological Practice said –

We couldn’t tell how they were placed in the grave. Both were still upright and they were placed as though in motion as if they were leaping out of the grave. It looked as though their skulls were removed centuries ago. Possibly the heads were coming out of the graves. Did they go in alive who knows? There’s no evidence of a ramp. This is a new burial rite which has never been seen before.

She further added –

How spectacular this is – and what time and effort must have gone into it and the people who must have taken part in this burial process, digging this 4.7m by 3.9m grave. There is more pig bone in this burial than there has been seen in burials across the Wolds. He [the occupant] is honoured with at least six piglets – normally there would be a quarter of a jaw. He was someone so significant.


Quite intriguingly, the archaeologists have also identified the grave of a younger man (17 to 25 years of age) in proximity to the aforementioned chariot burial, with the body being ‘ritually pierced’ by 10 to 12 spears made of iron and bones. On closer examination, his head was found to have suffered a blunt force trauma, possibly during melee combat.

Regarding this bizarre mode of burial, some experts have conjectured that the spears were ‘introduced’ so as ensure the corpse doesn’t rise up. Their hypothesis is based on previous occurrences of similar burial methods derived from local superstitions. However, Ms Ware believes that the burial could have also signified a form of symbolic respect for the young man who met his death on the battlefield.

Source: Yorkshire Post

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