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Warrior Queen Discovered

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Warrior Queen and her Iron Age Chariot
unearthed on a building site

By David Keys, Archaeology Correspondent
© Independent News, 07 April 2001

A unique Iron Age warrior queen's chariot, complete with the skeleton of its royal owner, has been found by builders.

Archaeologists called in when the grave was discovered, have unearthed a range of richly ornamental pieces of horse harness. David Miles, Chief Archaeologist at the English Heritage, has described the find as one of the most significant and exciting of its kind.

Among the remains unearthed at the site near Driffield, East Yorkshire, were a number of 80-90cm diameter iron tyres, hub caps and small yoke-rings used to guide the reins and bridle bits. Tiny fragments of mineralised leather harness and wheel wood were also found. The bronze yoke rein-rings were decorated with white inlay made of valuable coral, which must have come originally from the eastern Mediterranean.

The person in the grave was clearly very important, and buried with a rite that is almost exclusive to East Yorkshire and has links with the continent. It may be the earliest chariot burial so far discovered, and could solve the mystery of who these people were and why they buried their dead in a way different from other Iron Age Britons.
said Mr Miles.

The chariot's 1.7m square carriage ­ equipped with a 2m long pole ­ was inverted and placed like a box over the body of the driver, after the remains of a funeral feast of roast wild boar had been placed on her chest.

Local Iron Age religious rituals, associated with the French-originating Parisi tribe, seem to have dictated that only the key left parts of the animal ­ in this case the left jaw and the left tusk ­ were used in this way. Preliminary examinations suggest that the woman died in her late 20s or early 30s. Like most other British chariot burials, the vehicle as partially disassembled before burial.

The find is the seventh from the Wetwang area of East Yorkshire. Altogether 15 have been unearthed in the district from a tribe that would have been known to Julius Caesar as the Parisi, with origins in the champagne country of Northern France. They buried their dead with grave goods, usually a single brooch, but only the elite received chariot burials.

The grave was found by Adrian Havercraft, an archaeological consultant, who said yesterday:

This fabulous find was only discovered because the firm decided on a final check after we had found the square ditch surrounding the barrow. One of our trenches and a cut for the new access road lie either side of the grave pit, and both literally missed it by a whisker.

Although the structure of the wooden chariot has rotted away, as have the wooden parts of the wheels and the 3m long pole between the horses and the yoke, it has left clear traces in the clay that have been used for the first time as a mould in an attempt to reconstruct the form of the yoke.

The chariot burial tradition came originally from northern France and Belgium, which means the owner of the chariot probably had strong continental connections or ancestry.

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