Since 2010, The University of Leicester have been excavating the Burrough Hill Iron Age hillfort, in the proximity of Melton Mowbray. The excavation was designed to be an ongoing project that brings both volunteers and students of the university an opportunity to experience an actual dig.
And it was the latter group that discovered a number of fittings that have been lying around for at least 2,200 years.
2nd century Celtic Chariot found: Co-director speaks
“This is the most remarkable discovery of material we made at Burrough Hill in the five years we have worked on the site,” said Dr Jeremy Taylor, lecturer in Landscape Archaeology at the University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History. Dr. Taylor also serves as the co-director of the Burrough Hill excavation.
“I have been excavating for 25 years and I have never found one of these pieces – let alone a whole set. It is a once-in-a-career discovery,” he added.
Among the items found were two bronze-capped iron linchpins, which of course kept the wheels on the chariot; two bronze rings which were responsible for holding the lynchpins in place; three rein rings, assorted bronze fasteners, toggles and buckles used on the reins and four rivets from the chariot platform.
The items have been sent for cleaning, and it’s the team’s hope that detailed patterns might be found in the bronze which would suggest that the owner was of a higher status, perhaps even a nobleman.
Celtic chariot burnt as offering
Whether or not the pieces were ever used is the question. The pieces appear to have been placed together in a box and burnt in what was a common religious offering at the time. There were also a number of equine tools found in the area but outside the burned box.
“The function of the iron tools is a bit of a mystery, but given the equestrian nature of the hoard, it is possible that they were associated with horse grooming,” said John Thomas, co-director of the project along with Dr. Taylor. “One piece in particular has characteristics of a modern curry comb, while two curved blades may have been used to maintain horse’s hooves or manufacture harness parts.”
The university will analyze the items further, then place them on temporary display beginning this Saturday until mid-December at the Melton Carnegie Museum.