Leicester University Archaeologists discover bronze remains

A team of students from the University of Leicester have uncovered a matching set of decorated bronze parts from a 2nd or 3rd Century BC Celtic chariot at Burrough Hill Iron Age hillfort, near Melton Mowbray.

This ‘once in a career’ discovery by the University’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History was made during their ongoing excavation of the area and appears to have been buried as a religious offering.

The school has led a 5-year project there since 2010, giving archaeology students and volunteers valuable experience of archaeological excavations.

Burrough Hill is owned by the education charity, the Ernest Cook Trust, which has also funded site tours and schools visits to the excavation.

While digging a large, deep pit near the remains of a house within the hillfort, a group of four students found a piece of bronze in the ground, before uncovering further parts very nearby.

John Thomas, co-director of the project said: “It looks like it was a matching set of parts that was collected and placed in a box as an offering, before being placed in the ground.

Iron tools were placed around the box before it was then burnt, and covered in a thick layer of cinder and slag.

“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.

One piece in particular has characteristics of a modern curry comb, while two curved blades may have been used to maintain horses’ hooves or manufacture harness parts.”

Together, the pieces have been recognised as a matching set of fittings from a mid to late Iron Age chariot, undisturbed for more than 2200 years until the team uncovered it.

The archaeologists believe the chariot would have belonged to a person with high status, such as a noble or warrior.

The parts have been taken to the University of Leicester’s School of Archaeology and Ancient History for further analysis – and the archaeologists hope they will be put on public display in due course.

There will be a temporary display of the objects at the Melton Carnegie Museum in Melton Mowbray, from Saturday October 18th until Saturday December 13th.

Jasmine Bradbury

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