Cost: Free

An Iron Age Chariot Burial in Pembrokeshire

An Iron Age Chariot Burial in Pembrokeshire: recent treasure finds, excavations and ongoing museum engagements

Lecture by Kenneth Murphy & Adam Gwilt FSA

In early 2018 a metal detectorist discovered a rare assemblage of Late Iron Age artefacts in a field in south Pembrokeshire, Wales. He immediately reported the find as possible treasure to Adam Gwilt at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales who confirmed that they were chariot and horse fittings, decorated in a late Celtic Art style of the mid-first century AD. A rapid geophysical survey indicated that the fittings came from a large pit within a ring-ditch. During the survey the substantial earthworks of a previously unrecorded multivallate inland promontory fort were noted less than 100m from the find spot. An exploratory excavation and further geophysical survey in spring 2018 confirmed that the artefacts were part of chariot burial and that there was significant buried archaeology in the field. The artefacts discovered in 2018 were declared treasure. Because of the potential vulnerability of the chariot burial to further metal detecting, it was decided to excavate it; this was done in March - early April 2019.

This talk will describe the discovery of the first chariot burial from southern Britain and its subsequent excavation. The discovery will be placed in context. Currently this Pembrokeshire example is an outlier – known British chariot burials from Yorkshire and southern Scotland are two-three centuries earlier.

Work is progressing on post-excavation analysis. At the time of writing, the artefacts discovered in 2018 are with The British Museum for treasure valuation and those found during the 2019 excavation have yet to be declared treasure. Initial conservation stabilization and X-raying of the lifted chariot components is now ongoing, but full conservation and analyses will have to wait until Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales has acquired them. It is anticipated there will be more to report on the artefacts and the post–excavation analyses by the time of the talk in December. 

In line with Amgueddfa Cymru’s vision and values, which includes a commitment to a participatory approach, student volunteers, based at nearby Pembrokeshire College, have been involved at every stage of the project, engaging with the excavation, learning new skills, filming discoveries as they are uncovered, giving accounts of their experiences and engaging with the follow-up conservation work being undertaken at the museum.

The project will continue to engage with, and to be shaped by, students, volunteers and Pembrokeshire communities, as the project progresses towards reporting, possible chariot reconstruction, potential further fieldwork opportunities and museum presentations.

In November 2019, the students will have presented their films and personal responses to this discovery at the annual Pembrokeshire Archaeology Day.

This discovery is now a major ongoing museum and heritage partnership project in Wales, involving Amgueddfa Cymru, Dyfed Archaeological Trust, Cadw and Pembrokeshire College, with financial support from AC-NMW and Cadw and with an Our Heritage grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in Wales.