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Prehistoric Britain

Ancient Chariot found in Edinburgh

Edited from BBC News, 14 March 2001

In 2001 Scottish archaeologists completed an operation to remove an Iron Age chariot from an Edinburgh building site.

The chariot, which was initially thought to have been used in a burial around 250 BC, and was later carbon-dated to the fifth century BC, was unearthed by construction workers on the site of the new Edinburgh Interchange development, near Newbridge.

Experts said the chariot was the first of its kind to be discovered in Scotland and its being there suggested that someone of importance may have been buried nearby.

Edinburgh City Council ordered an archaeological excavation to be carried out on the Newbridge site due to its proximity to Huly Hill, a Bronze Age burial cairn which is surrounded by three standing stones.

Stephen Carter, director of Headland Archaeology, who undertook the dig, said the discovery had been 'a complete surprise. This is the type of find which you read about in books. You don't expect to be faced with the genuine article on site.'

During the excavation, Mr Carter was helped by experts from the National Museums of Scotland (NMS) and City of Edinburgh Council.

The chariot, which was still encased in mud, was then taken to the NMS laboratory in Granton, Edinburgh, for conservation work.

'Marvellous discovery'

Fraser Hunter, curator of the Iron Age and Roman collections at the NMS, said: 'This is a marvellous discovery - one of those entirely unexpected finds which changes our views on Scotland's past.

'A chariot like this would be the Ferrari of the Iron Age, and suggests someone important was buried there. This chariot is unique in Scotland and extremely rare in Britain. The best parallels are in France and Belgium, showing the wide-ranging contacts at the time.'

John Lawson, archaeologist for Edinburgh City Council said: 'We are all very excited about this amazing find.

'This further confirms the importance of the Huly Hill site in the west of Edinburgh as a religious centre for the prehistoric people of Edinburgh.'

Map of pre-Roman Britain
This map of pre-Roman Britain shows the general positioning of the various tribal groups in the period between the two visits of Julius Caesar of 55-54 BC and the imperial invasion of AD 43, admittedly four hundred years and more after the chariot was entombed (click or tap on map to view full sized)



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