Chariot of War That Swung Low on the A1; Unearthed in Yorkshire, a Stunning Iron Age Burial Site with One Skeleton, Two Wheels - and 10,000 Animal Bones

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Byline: TIM UTTON

IT was a feast fit for a king. As huge fires were raised to honour their dead leader, hundreds of cattle were led in and slaughtered to provide food for a great ceremony.

The mourners of the Parisii tribe ate, drank and chanted as they marked his journey into the afterlife - complete with an ornate war chariot to speed him on his way.

Followers came from miles around to pay tribute to the warlord and see him off in regal style befitting Britain circa 500BC.

And when the festivities were over, he was buried - chariot and all - in a pit hewn out of limestone rock.

Two-and-a-half thousand years later, surrounded by the remains of one of the greatest Iron Age feasts ever discovered, he has finally seen the light of day again.

His chariot was uncovered just 12 inches beneath the surface of a ploughed field just as the whole site was about to be buried forever by a road-building project.

An archaeologist working with the Highways Agency spotted the tops of its iron wheels as machinery scraped the soil away.

It has been hailed as a discovery of immense significance. Experts found the chariot surrounded by almost 10,000 cattle bones in a site overlooked by the giant cooling towers of the Ferrybridge power station alongside the A1 in West Yorkshire.

The bones had all been heaped into a ditch cut in a square with 25ft sides around a burial mound containing the tribal leader laid out in his chariot.

He is thought to have been aged between 30 and 40, but it is not clear how he met his death.

While the iron 'tyres' of the 3ft spoked wheels have survived, the wooden chariot has rotted away. However it has left stains and hollows in the soil which perfectly outline its shape.

Iron and bronze harness fittings have been recovered as well as a number of items from the grave, including an iron spearhead, the bones of pork joints, probably offerings to the gods, and a bronze object which could have been the clasp of a box.

Angela Boyle, who is supervising the dig for specialist group Oxford Archaeology, said: 'We can tell from the [cattle] bones that they were butchered and cooked before being dumped in the ditch.

'We believe they are the remains of a huge feast - the equivalent of between 250 and 300 animals. …