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Garton on the Wolds Chariot Burials

The site, which lies on the boundary between Garton and Kirkburn, was discovered from aerial photographs taken in 1984. Square ditched enclosures characteristic of Iron Age burial mounds, although the mounds were no longer visible after centuries of ploughing, indicated where graves could be expected. The two largest responded well to geophysical survey with a proton-magnetometer, suggesting that one or both might contain chariot burials like those excavated at Wetwang (see information sheet 3). The excavation of one or more chariot burials was the principal objective of the project, because Iron Age studies in Britain had benefited so much from the excavation of the Wetwang finds. At Garton the promising burials were part of a large cemetery, which would increase their significance and the size of the enclosures suggested that they belonged to a different stage of the burial tradition from that found in previous excavations.

The excavation has brought to light much information that is new about the Iron Age in the region, particularly in the form of previously unknown burial rites and the exciting (and unique) possibility that here was a religious sanctuary in the middle of a cemetery. The reason for the choice of site was probably the occasional appearance here of springs whence a stream called Gypsey Race flows, in wet seasons, into the River Hull. The Iron Age Celts held springs and rivers to be important as the homes of gods and spirits. What more natural way than that could they have constructed their sanctuaries on a site that from time to time water mysteriously bubbled up to the surface, and as mysteriously disappeared again?

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