Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Instagram

Iron Age horse & chariot dating back to 500BC found buried in Yorkshire

Goran Blazeski

The Arras culture, named after a cemetery site of Arras, at Arras Farm, in eastern Yorkshire, which was excavated in 1815-17 is an archaeological culture that existed in England during the Iron Age. The culture’s burial rites which are uncommon outside East Yorkshire and are more reminiscent of continental Europe it is what defines the Arras culture.

The most dramatic features of the burial practices are ‘chariot burials,’ a practice reserved for high-ranking figures. The first true chariots were developed around 2500BC in south-western Siberia along the now border of Russia and Kazakhstan and quickly spread to Mesopotamia, Anatolia, Egypt, India, and China. Chariots were introduced throughout Europe around 1300BC and by 500BC they were introduced into Britain.

Chariots played a major role in the funerary life of ancient cultures around the world, but the practice of ‘chariot burials’ seems to be rare and restricted in the UK. Chariots were included in the Arras culture burials, but only in a very small number. On the site of the Arras cemetery around 100 barrows were identified, four of which contained chariot burials.

However, the latest discovery of the remains of an Iron Age horse and chariot buried together in East Yorkshire is quite unusual as it is the first time horses have been found within a ‘chariot burial.’ It is described by experts as a find of “international significance,” and is one of only 26 ever excavated in the UK.


Lead image: Maiden Castle, Dorset is one of the largest hill forts in Europe. Photograph taken in 1935 by Major George Allen (1891–1940

According to the Independent, the Pocklington chariot burial was the final resting place of a high-ranking Iron Age Briton – most likely a warrior – who lived in the 3th or 4th century BC. The report states that it is possible that the warrior was a member of an ancient British tribe called the Parisi, Gaulish tribe from Northern France, that is loosely associated with the extent of the Arras culture.

Paula Ware from the Yorkshire-based company MAP Archaeological Practice told BBC News the the latest find in historic market town of Pocklington could help shed more light on the ritual of Iron Age burial.

She added that the proximity of the horse skeletons to the chariot suggests that the horses played a crucial role in the burial ceremony. Ware claims that this is a rare discovery’ and that it would help researchers better understand the Arras culture.

Dr Melanie Giles of the University of Manchester told the Independent that “this discovery provides valuable additional evidence demonstrating how the Ancient Britons loved their chariots. As research progresses, it’s becoming ever clearer just how important these beautiful high status wheeled vehicles were to them. Indeed Roman historical sources even describe how the Iron Age Britons used their chariots to demonstrate driving skills, to show off and to intimidate their enemies.”

Read another story from us: 24,000-year-old evidence of an Ovodov horse, once thought extinct 400,000 years ago, has been unearthed in Siberia

The ancient settlement is of great ‘national and international significance’ and over the past three years, archaeologists excavated more than 75 Iron Age burial graves there.

In the last 200 years, there is no find similar to the one at the Yorkshire building site. It is a hugely important discovery and it can help researchers gain a better understanding of the Arras culture.

Goran Blazeski

Goran Blazeski is one of the authors writing for The Vintage News