TWO CHARIOT BURIALS at WETWANG SLACK
How the chariot burials were discovered at Wetwang: in the foreground is the male burial, with the rim of one of the wheels projecting over the edge of the quarry. Behind is the gravel digger, with the driver, Mick Ward at the controls.
Opposite. Above: The female burial, with the wheels on either side and the chariot pole projecting above her head. Note the side of pork placed over her lower body. Below: the male burial, with his sword placed carefully over him.
T WO chariot burials have been discovered in the gravel quarry at Wetwang Slack, in Yorkshire. This is a continuation of the quarry at Garton Slack, where in 1971 Tony Brewster found a chariot burial, and where subsequently John Dent took over excavations following Tony Brewster's retirement from the field (see CA 51, 61, 76). The new burials were discovered by Mick Ward, the digger driver who, having seen the previous chariot burial, recognised this one immediately when he first sliced through the back of a skull, and then exposed the rim of an iron tyre of one of the chariots. He promptly reported to John Dent that he had found a chariot burial, which was immediately excavated, with the help of Dr. Ian Stead of the British Museum.
The chariots were twenty yards apart, both at the centre of adjacent square barrows. One burial was of a man and the other was of a woman. 302
Both were very similar to the Garton Slack chariot burial, in that the chariot had been dismantled prior to burial. The tyres and chassis were buried first, then the body was placed on top, together with a side of pork (pig bones overlay the human bones). In both graves, traces of a rectangular box were seen at a higher level, and it may be that the actual body of the chariot had been buried. The wheels were placed below the box, the pole was laid out down the length of the grave, probably attached to the box, and the yoke was placed parallel to the pole.
Of the two graves the woman's appeared to be the richer, though possibly our judgement is distorted in this matter, for most of the objects in the woman's grave were made of bronze, and were thus better preserved than the iron objects in the man's grave. This could be seen in the case of the horse fittings. Each grave had five terrets, that is rings fastened to the yoke, through which the reins were presumably passed—this is the usual explanation given to them (clearly seen in the man's grave, p 305, right). The terrets in the woman's grave were made of bronze, each ornamented with knobs of coral imported from the Mediterranean; the coral was red when first excavated, but immediately faded to white. However the five terrets in the man's grave were simpler, made of slightly ribbed bronze and iron. The case was similar with the horse bits. The woman had two bits, each of them the usual three link bits. The two end links in each case were made of bronze and were ornamented, but unfortunately the centre link was made of iron, though there was a bronze band round the middle. However, in the man's grave the bits were made of iron and were of the two link variety, which is unusual in Yorkshire.