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18 September 2014
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Wetwang: Story of a Dig

By Julian Richards
A woman's body

Image of pig bones and skeleton
Pig bones were found buried next to the skeleton ©
If further proof was needed, it arrived in the form of the wheels that overlapped in the central area of the grave. Here, there were no traces of wooden spokes - the wheels survived as no more than a pair of nave bands, a badly decayed iron tyre and a linchpin.

The tyre now consisted almost entirely of rust and iron-stained soil, containing insufficient metal to give a signal on the metal detector - an explanation for why they were not located from the surface of the grave. So, all the components of a chariot were now in place, but the question remained - whose burial was it?

'... there were the remains of parts of a pig, food for [a] journey, and an unusual iron mirror.'

There were strong indications of where any skeleton was likely to lie in the grave. After the first few layers had been removed, a rectangular patch of soil, different in colour and texture from that in the rest of the grave, appeared, and it remained visible in the same place, layer after layer. It was suggested that this could mark the position of the bodywork of the chariot, perhaps - as the vehicle had been dismantled - placed over the body.

This theory proved to be correct, as the rectangular mark was found to enclose a skeleton, lying on the chalk floor of the grave, in a crouched position - and providing more surprises for the archaeologists.

As soon as the skeleton was cleaned it was apparent that it was that of a woman, and that she had been provided with more than just her chariot for the next life. With her in the grave there were the remains of parts of a pig, food for her journey, and an unusual iron mirror.

Published: 2005-01-25

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