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Last Updated: Wednesday, 9 March, 2005, 19:38 GMT
Ancient chariot excites experts
Detailed examination of buried bones
The remains could be 2,400 years old
A chariot burial site uncovered in West Yorkshire could be the final resting place of one of Britain's ancient tribal leaders, archaeologists say.

The well-preserved remains, found by road contractors near Ferrybridge, are thought to be about 2,400 years old.

But evidence suggests that people were still visiting the grave during Roman times - 500 years after his burial.

Experts believe that native Britons may have used the site as a shrine to re-assert their national identity.

Archaeologist Angela Boyle said the site, uncovered during the 245m upgrade of the A1, was "one of the most significant Iron Age burials ever found".

Important figure

Burials were extremely rare during the Iron Age, with evidence suggesting that most bodies were simply discarded in rivers and other water courses.

The man was about 30 to 40-years-old, 5ft 9ins tall and in "remarkably good health" with a full set of teeth.

Skull of chariot man
The man's bones were remarkably well-preserved

Tests on his bones suggest he originally came from an area some way away from West Yorkshire, possibly Scotland.

"This was not the man in the street, he was clearly important. Whether this was the leader of a tribe or in fact a number of tribes, we do not know," Mrs Boyle said.

"He was buried there with that chariot because he was clearly an individual that commanded a lot of respect."

In addition to the man, 10,000 fragments of bones from about 300 cattle were found buried in a ditch around his resting place.

I have never seen anything like it and I actually almost cried when they uncovered it
Angela Boyle, Oxford Archaeology

Tests have shown that the cattle were put in the ground in the late 1st or early 2nd Century AD - and all came from different herds and different areas of the country.

The finding shows that the site "continued to be venerated for hundreds of years after the burial", Mrs Boyle said.

The team from Oxford Archaeology believe the cattle bones were the remains of feast for native Britons who gathered to commemorate the man.

The feast, which thousands of people would have attended, came at a time when the Romans were exerting their authority in the country.

A1 chariot
Road contractors uncovered the chariot near the A1 upgrade

"This could be seen as a reassertion of native identity or a plea to ancestors to help them out in difficult times," Mrs Boyle added.

"I would suggest that what we are actually seeing here is a re-emphasis of the importance of that area to the native population of the country as the Romans were moving into the area."

The chariot burial, only the 21st discovered in Britain, should now help archaeologists discover more about the tribes that lived in the north of England.

Mrs Boyle, who directed the dig, said the team have been helped by the remarkable preservation of the site.

"I have been doing archaeology for 21 years now and I was blown away, absolutely blown away," she said.

"I have never seen anything like it and I actually almost cried when they uncovered it.

"The whole thing, when I saw it in its entirety, was wonderful, really wonderful."

The dig was carried out by Oxford Archaeology and the remains have been examined at the University of Bradford in a project funded by the Highways Agency.




SEE ALSO:
The roads to ruins
18 Dec 03 |  Lincolnshire
Chariot swings into history centre
08 Dec 03 |  West Yorkshire
Workers unearth ancient chariot
03 Dec 03 |  West Yorkshire


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