The past few decades have witnessed the discovery of a large number of Iron Age Celtic chariots across Europe, including a number of examples from the island of Britain.
Celtic chariot from Newbridge (Edinburgh), Scotland. (5th century BC)
Of particular interest in this context is the recent discovery of a Celtic chariot burial uncovered by a ‘treasure hunter’ at a (still undisclosed) site in the south Pembrokeshire area of Wales. While individual elements of Celtic chariots have previously been uncovered in western Britain, this discovery represents the first example of a complete Celtic chariot to be found on the territory of today’s Wales.
Chariot terret of fine bronze with striking red enamel inlay, executed in classic late La Tène style – discovered at Lesser Garth (near Pentyrch), Wales. (1 c. BC)
Cast bronze enameled terret with multi-colored glass inlay, from Suffolk, England (1 c. BC / 1 c. AD)
Terret decorated with red enamel, from the recently discovered Celtic chariot burial in south Pembrokeshire
Bridle fitting from the south Pembrokeshire chariot
Despite initial media reports dating the Welsh chariot burial to the 6th century BC (!!!), the decorative compositions and distinctive use of red enamel clearly date this chariot to the same period as similar discoveries from southern Britain, i.e. 1st century BC – 1st century AD.
Bronze element from the Pembrokeshire chariot, lavishly decorated with red enamel
Although a systematic archaeological excavation of the burial has not yet been carried out, and is planned for later this year, initial research has revealed a number of interesting facts. The use of ground penetrating radar in the area has indicated a pattern of buried ditches and walls, indicating an important Celtic settlement in the area. Perhaps most fascinating is the fact that a trial excavation has revealed that the chariot was buried in an upright position, a rare phenomenon in Britain, but one which has been observed in continental Celtic chariot burials in Gaul and on the Balkans, most recently the discovery at Sboryanovo in Bulgaria.
Celtic chariot, buried in an upright position with horses still attached, uncovered at Sboryanovo in northeastern Bulgaria