Archeologists from the University of Leicester have found remains of an Iron Age chariot that may have once belonged to a nobleman and burned as a religious offering.
The once in a lifetime find was unearthed at the Burrough Hill Iron Age hillfort, which used to be surrounded by farms and settlements. The University of Leicester has been leading a project in the area since 2010 that provides archeology students and volunteers experience in archaeological excavations.
Four University of Leicester students spotted a piece of bronze while digging a pit in the area and this eventually led to the discovery of the other parts nearby. The matching pieces were easily recognized as a set of bronze fittings from a chariot believed to date back between 2nd and 3rd century B.C. and which included decorated linchpins, as well as rings and fittings that would have once held the harness.
The chariot is believed to have been burned as a religious offering. The pieces look like they were gathered and placed in a box before these were burned as part of a religious ritual. The box was placed on the ground upon a cushion of wheat chaff, which also served as fuel for the fire. The remains were then covered by burnt cinder and slag, and left undisturbed for over 2,000 years until they were found.
The archeologists believe that the burial took place to mark a new season and that the owner of the chariot would have been an individual with high-status in the society such as a warrior or a noble.
Project co-director John Thomas said that iron tools were also laid around the box of the chariot parts before it was burned and covered. This included a piece that has the characteristic of the modern curry bombs and two curved blades that were possibly used for maintaining horse hooves or manufacturing harness parts.
"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," Thomas said.
The discovered relics were brought to the University of Leicester's School of Archaeology and Ancient History, where they are further examined. Archeologists said they look forward to having the objects publicly displayed but for the meantime will be temporarily displayed at the Melton Carnegie Museum in Leicestershire starting Oct. 18 until Dec. 13 this year.