Dozens of Iron Age skeletons found at prehistoric Yorkshire settlement could reveal burial rituals 2,500 years ago

By Culture24 Reporter | 18 March 2016

Archaeologists expect tests on a set of 75 square barrow graves from the Arras culture of Iron Age Yorkshire to reveal more about life 2,500 years ago

A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© MAP Archeology
A young warrior buried with his sword at his side and a set of ten spears, hundreds of amber and glass beads, brooches and ancient pots have been found at an Iron Age settlement where thousands of people once lived in Yorkshire.

A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© MAP Archeology
The shield burial discovered at the Pavilion Square development


A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© David Wilson Homes
Archaeologists are focusing their analysis on discovering whether the prehistoric population at Pocklington, where 75 skeleton-holding square barrows have been dug up as part of a housing development, was indigenous or migrants from the continent.

A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© David Wilson Homes
Announced on BBC Four’s Digging for Britain last night, the excavation is expected to create the largest study of an Iron Age population in Britain for 35 years. The bodies belong to members of the Arras culture in mid-Iron Age Yorkshire, known for their use of square and circular barrow graves and links with Europe.

A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© MAP Archeology
This bronze bracelet has a coral decoration


A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© MAP Archeology
“Square barrows tend to be mainly located to the East and South of Britain, although isolated square barrows have been discovered in other regions,” says Paula Ware, of MAP Archaeological Practice, the group which has overseen the 12-month series of excavations.

A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© MAP Archeology
This selection of grave goods includes a pin and beads


A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© David Wilson Homes
“To date the East of Yorkshire has the largest concentration of ‘Arras Culture’ Square Barrows, and naturally these findings have helped to strengthen this.

A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© MAP Archeology
This glass bead contains a Gold Inlay


A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© MAP Archeology
“We are hoping that these findings shed light on the ritual of Iron Age burial – and, as we can assume from the shield and sword burials, these were significant members of society, so our understanding of culture and key figures of the time could be really enhanced.

A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© David Wilson Homes
“On the whole this is a hugely important discovery and is a fine example of what can be revealed and discovered if house developers and archaeologists work hand-in-hand to reveal the nation’s hidden history.

A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© MAP Archeology
A silver pin


A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© David Wilson Homes
“We will understand much more once the full analytical process has been completed – but as with any significant finding, this will take time to process.”

A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© MAP Archeology
An iron knife


A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© David Wilson Homes
Men, women and children have been found in the barrows, few of which have been damaged by soil conditions and ploughing.

A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© MAP Archeology
The shield burial during excavation


A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© David Wilson Homes
“At present we are still at the early analytical stages of reviewing these findings,” says Peter Morris, of David Wilson Homes.

A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© David Wilson Homes
“These findings are of national significance and could help shape our understanding of the Arras culture and indeed the Iron Age as a whole.

A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© David Wilson Homes
“It will take several years to complete this work. The findings will help us to gauge a better understanding of the culture and area at the time of the burials, which is believed to be 800 BC to 00 AD.

A photo of prehistoric Iron Age archaeological discoveries made at Pocklington in Yorkshire
© David Wilson Homes
“Unfortunately it is just too early to predict what the findings will reveal, but it’s certainly going to help with the nation’s understanding of this period in time.”

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Three places to revisit the Iron Age in

Museum of the Iron Age, Andover
Life-sized models and reconstructions, as well as finds from the excavations of an Iron Age hillfort, creating a picture of how people farmed, fought, worshipped and died, more than 2000 years ago.

Bodrifty Iron Age Settlement, Penzance
In this area of enclosed moorland are the remains of an Iron Age (600 BC - AD 43) settlement, consisting of the ruins of eight roundhouses within a low enclosing bank. The site was excavated in the 1950s and a wider area surveyed In 1985.

Castell Henllys Iron Age Fort, Pembrokeshire
Castell Henllys is a prehistoric promontory forts dating to around 600BC, the site of excavations for 20 years and home to several reconstructed thatched Iron Age buildings.
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