Saturday, July 16, 2022

Ferry Fryston Chariot Burial #FestivalofArchaeology

 Today marks the start of the Council for British Archaeology's #FestivalofArchaeology!

This year's theme is journeys, so we're digging deeper (get it...?) into our fantastic Ferry Fryston Iron Age chariot burial, on display at Castleford Museum.

The chariot was found when the A1 road at #Ferrybridge was being upgraded in 2003-2006.

It had been used for a burial, and a man's body had been carefully buried inside the chariot.

Radiocarbon dating suggests he was buried around 200 BC.

Iron Age chariot burials are rare, and only 21 have been found in Britain so far. This makes our Ferry Fryston one very special!

Even though the wood had almost completely rotted away and only corroded pieces of metal remain, it has taught us a lot about how Iron Age chariots were made and how they worked.

So, who was the man buried in the Ferry Fryston chariot?

Image shows part of the Ferry Fryston chariot display at Castleford Museum, with the skull of the man buried on the left, the brooch from his cloak second from left, and nave hoops from the chariot wheels

Archaeologists studied his skeleton and were able to find out the following things:

🧍 The man was aged 30-40, and had been buried lying on his back with his legs folded under him

🦷 Chemical analysis of his teeth suggests he was not local, but from East Yorkshire or even Scotland

💍 He was wearing a cloak pinned at the left shoulder by a brooch, with a round glass head that was originally red [this is the object second from the left]

🛡 Pieces of corroded metal suggest he may also have had a shield

What journeys do you think he would have taken to get here? What journeys was he being prepared for in both life and death?

The Chariot

Burials of Iron Age chariots like this are very rare, so ours is really important!

The chariot would have been mainly made out of wood, and even though this had almost completely rotted away and only corroded pieces of metal remain, it has taught us a lot about how Iron Age chariots were made and how they worked.

1) The large iron tyres would have given the wooden wheels strength to drive over rough ground. Chariots like these certainly weren't driving over planned tarmac roads like the A1 in Ferrybridge today where it was found!

2) These four strong iron bands are called nave hoops, and they would have held together the wheel hubs

3) These are linch pins, which stopped the wheels from falling off.

4) These wooden chariots were pulled by horses, which were controlled by a 'bit' in their mouths. This would have been attached to reins which ran through these terret rings to stop the reins from getting tangled.

What might the full chariot have looked like?

Well our experts think it would have looked like this...

What did you think? Were you close?

It would have been mostly made out of wood, likely with a square seat attached to the two large wheels where the rider would have sat.

This then had a long wooden beam stretching up to where two horses would have been attached to pull the chariot along.

The Burial

This picture shows a drawing of the Excavation Plan of the chariot, which is carefully drawn showing what was found and exactly where it was found. 

This is important, as it helps archaeologists to fill in the gaps of what hasn't survived in the ground (particularly the wood of the chariot) to build the bigger picture!

Down the middle of the diagram you can see the remains of and the indentation made by the original chariot. This is what was used by our experts to design what the full chariot might have looked like.

At the bottom, in the middle, you can see how the man's skeleton was found, with his legs bent behind him.

It also shows you where our items in the display case were found: wheel rings (1), the nave hoops (2-3 and 9-10), the linch pins (6), the terret rings (13 - 17), the horse bit (20) and the brooch would have been on/within the skeleton.

Can you imagine what it must have felt like to find this? Have you made any of your own archaeological discoveries?

Come and see the chariot in all its glory for yourself at Castleford Museum!

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​9:30am - 5pm
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