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18 September 2014
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Wetwang: A Chariot Fit for a Queen?

By Mike Loades
The evidence

Image of Wetwang horsebits
Bits from a horse's bridle are revealed by x-ray  ©
The location of the surviving metal parts - terrets, linchpins, iron tyres, nave hoops, bits and strap unions - could be easily identified at the site of the dig.

There was also a near rectangular stain which indicated the approximate shape and dimensions of the vehicle body and provided information about component types and their dimensions. This was consistent with the evidence from other finds and provided useful clues, but there was more.

'Careful recording ... provided important information about the shape and size of the vehicle.'

The nature of the soil, clay intermingled with flint and chalk, meant that where the wooden structure had decayed in a few places there were tell-tale empty spaces in the filling. Careful recording in three dimensions of all the other finds in the grave also provided important information about the shape and size of the vehicle.

From the voids in the wooden structure, the archaeologists were able to detect the length and shape profile of the axle - a curious indented shape.

Studying the dimensions of the axle also revealed that the height of the ponies was only 11 hands, which is short by modern standards, although, judging from the evidence of excavated horse skeletons elsewhere, typical of Iron Age native stock. The stain where the decaying wood had discoloured the earth also revealed that the vehicle had three solid sides and an open front.

Published: 2005-01-25

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