|27 March 2001
Scottish Iron Age burial chariot discovered
Scottish archaeologists have completed an operation to remove an Iron Age chariot from an Edinburgh building site. The chariot, which is thought to have been used in a burial around 250BC, was described as unique in Scotland and extremely rare in Britain. Unlike similar items unearthed in Yorkshire, this one appears to be intact.
Edinburgh City Council ordered an archaeological excavation to be carried out on the Newbridge site due to its proximity to Huly Hill, a Bronze Age burial cairn surrounded by three standing stones. Stephen Carter, director of Headland Archaeology, who undertook the dig, said the discovery had been "a complete surprise". The chariot, which was still encased in mud, was then taken to the NMS laboratory in Granton, Edinburgh, for conservation work.
Archaeologists who removed the chariot from its shallow grave confirmed that a fragment of tooth enamel, believed to be human, has also been retrieved from the site. The burial chariot was first uncovered in January but archaeologists, who were carrying out an exploratory excavation before work began on a business park, kept quiet about their find until they could assess its importance.
The chariot would have contained a person important enough to merit a formal burial when it was first placed underground 2,250 years ago. It is believed that the area where it was found was a religious centre in prehistoric times.
Fraser Hunter, curator of the Iron Age and Roman collections at the National Museums of Scotland, said: "This is a marvellous discovery - one of those entirely unexpected finds that changes our views on Scotland's past. A chariot like this would be the Ferrari of the Iron Age, and suggests someone important was buried there. This chariot is unique in Scotland and extremely rare in Britain. The best parallels are in France and Belgium, showing the wide-ranging contacts at the time."
The chariot was 1.5 metres tall and 1.4 metres wide. The wooden body has disintegrated in the acidic soil but the iron chassis, axle and wheels have been preserved. The chariot has been taken to the National Museum of Scotland
Sources: Ananova (9 March 2001), BBC News (12 March 2001), The Times (13 March 2001)
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