When archaeologists from MAP Archaeological Practice discovered a remarkable Iron Age chariot burial during the final stages of an excavation at Pocklington, East Yorkshire, in 2017, along with an impressive 164 burials and 74 square burials (see CA 327), they did not realise that more amazing discoveries were to come. At the end of last year, though, another seven-month excavation on the site – undertaken in advance of a 200-house development by Persimmon Homes Yorkshire – revealed two Iron Age barrows, the contents of which archaeologists on site have described as ‘most impressive, with no British parallel’.
The unexpected discovery came while the team was excavating a 3.2-hectare Anglo-Saxon settlement – an impressive find in its own right, and one attesting to the rich history of the area. The smaller of the two barrows – measuring 9m in diameter – was round and contained the remains of a young man, between 17 and 25 years old, who had been buried with a spear. He seems to have experienced violence during his life: at some point well prior to his death, he had received two fractures to his nose that had fully healed by the end of his life.
The larger barrow was square in shape and held the remains of what was, based on the extravagance of the burial, a high-status individual. He was interred with a fully upright chariot and two upright horses, along with a well-preserved shield and a highly decorated brooch. The chariot was also surrounded by pig bones, which may have been some kind of food offering. Older than 46 years old at the time of his death, this individual probably lived longer than most in his community.
Describing the elaborate burial, Paula Ware, Managing Director of MAP Archaeological Practice, said: ‘The upright horses were positioned in motion, as though leaping upwards out of the grave. The skeleton of the “warrior” man was placed in a crouched position in the cart of the chariot with a remarkably well-preserved bronze shield, decorated in La Tène style, and a beautifully highly decorated brooch.’
She added, ‘We feel privileged to be part of such a significant find. This provides a valuable insight into the ritual of Iron Age burials.’
The developers were also excited by the discovery. Simon Usher, Managing Director at Persimmon Homes Yorkshire, said: ‘Everyone has been absolutely thrilled by the finds. Keeping the news under wraps while the excavation was completed has been a real challenge, but so important to ensure the integrity of the site.’
Persimmon are planning to donate the discovery to a museum. As work continues on the site, who knows what other finds await us at Pocklington.
This article appeared in CA 347.