Chariots, Swords, and Spears: Iron Age burials at the foot of the East Yorkshire Wolds


This monograph presents the results of excavations at Burnby Lane and The Mile in Pocklington, East Yorkshire, which were carried out in several phases between 2014 and 2017 by MAP Archaeological Practice Ltd and commercially funded. Many readers will be familiar with the discovery of two chariots, one upright and one dismantled, both with horses, as it received extensive media coverage (including in CA 327) and was voted Current Archaeology’s Rescue Project of the Year in 2018.

The Iron Age cemetery at Burnby Lane included both square and round barrows, and a chariot burial with horses, spears, a shield, and a sword. There was a substantial group of ‘flat’ graves, too, both with and without associated grave structures. Iron Age funerary activity at The Mile included an intact chariot burial with horses and a richly decorated shield.

The monograph has a traditional format: detailed archaeological description is followed by specialist contributions, then a discussion and conclusion. It is well illustrated by both line drawings and photographs, many of which are in colour. However, the reader should not be fooled. Burnby Lane is the largest examination of middle Iron Age burials across Britain since John Dent’s work at Garton and Wetwang Slack from the early 1960s to the end of the 1980s. Cutting-edge analytical techniques have been applied wherever possible. Comprehensive osteological analysis is complemented by stable isotope and DNA analysis, with the former considering diet and mobility. In addition to traditional artefactual analysis, the chapter on the shield from The Mile includes SEM analysis, photogrammetric recording, and 3D modelling. There are also chapters on chariot fittings and personal ornaments including brooches and bracelets. The results of a comprehensive radiocarbon dating programme are discussed in detail. The concluding chapters will be of interest to specialists and non-specialists alike. A discussion of the significance of circular barrows of the Arras Culture is followed by a comprehensive synthesis of the Iron Age landscape. This 21st-century analysis of Iron Age burial practice in East Yorkshire will be welcomed by many.

Mark Stephens (ed.)
Oxbow Books, £50 (hbk), £17.99 (e-book)
ISBN 978-1789255423