Pagan Burials and Transport
British Iron Age: Cart Burials
300–100 BC, Iron Age, Yorkshire, England.
What made all these finds so exciting were the dismantled parts of a two-wheeled cart (or trap, or chariot) in each of these graves.
In 1984 three Iron Age burials, among many others, were found at Wetwang Slack in the chalk wolds of east Yorkshire. The site was one of ongoing investigation around the location of an Iron Age village, one that would have contained the usual scatter of thatched roundhouses and where a particular burial with similar grave goods had hit the headlines in 1979. What made all these new finds so exciting were the dismantled parts of a two-wheeled cart (or trap, or chariot) in three particular graves. Each grave held a single body, two a male skeleton and one a female, and each body had been laid over the wheels of a vehicle. The occupant, in at least two cases, had been given sustenance in the form of a large joint of pig meat to hold.
Cart burials of a similar type had been discovered by the Victorians in East Yorkshire and dubbed the Arras Culture, from the name of the farm on whose land they had been found. These also contained both male and female burials, and with accompanying joints of meat. In England, it seemed until recently that these cart burials were unique to this part of the country, although cart burials are known on the continent, in the Champagne region of eastern France, Schleswig Holstein in northern Germany and in Switzerland.
Since 2001, however, further Iron Age cart burials have been discovered near Ferrybridge in West Yorkshire, in East Yorkshire once again and in Scotland.
The dead, it appears, were thought to benefit from having a ready means of transport to hand for their journey into the afterlife.