Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Burrough Hill Iron Age fort finds of chariot fittings

photo: Nev1
Archaeologists from the University of Leicester have just excavated a disused grain storage pit containing bronze chariot fittings and some iron tools that might be connected to horse-grooming.
Most of the finds are illustrated here. Although the date given in the BBC news report is 3rd - 2nd cent. BC, I think that 2nd - 1st cent. is more realistic.

The chariot fittings appear to have come from at least two different vehicles and might have been collected over a period of time by the person who occupied the house nearby. It seems that whenever someone died, their grain storage pit was emptied of its usual contents, but sometimes other items were were placed in it as part of the funerary customs.  There have been some unusual finds in such storage pits, like a raven with its wings pinned open (presumably the owner of the pit had died in battle), or a cow's head facing upward upon which garbage had later been piled (perhaps the owner had died from illness).

The linchpin and lipped terret are similar to what to have been found at Kirkburn (which might explain the date given as the famous sword from that site was old when buried)) and the strap junction and toggle-like mount have the same leaf patterns as is on a later (AD) strap junction in my collection and a slightly earlier strap junction from Arundel Park (dated ca. 50 BC - 50 AD.

Archaeologically excavated objects such as these are extremely rare. Most similar finds in Britain are strays, often found far from their place of manufacture. Perhaps the owner of the fittings had been a groom and had been given various bits and pieces by a grateful patron, but we can only speculate about such matters. Chariot fittings appear to have been made in "design suites" and not so mismatched.


  1. Pretty aren't they, if you click on the TMA version of the news, go to the bottom of the article and there are about 6 photos of the collection. There is, what they believe anyway, a curry comb, looks like it was for the mane and tail. Just a homely reminder that they looked after their ponies, and presumably there would not be horses around at this stage.

  2. Hi Thelma, yes, I noticed the images. I would think that the ponies would have resembled the Dartmoor or New Forest ponies, but perhaps a bit more "knuckley". Some Celtic coins (especially continental Ambiani bronze) seem to emphasize the hooves and joints and this is perhaps a caricature of the real chariot ponies -- the Celts always seemed good at getting the essence of the animals they depicted.