The remains of an Iron Age chariot and two well-preserved horses, which have been discovered on a building site in Pocklington, are of "international significance".
The chariot burial, which is the first example with accompanying horses to be scientifically excavated, was discovered at The David Wilson Homes’ Pavilion Square development off Burnby Lane.
Archaeologists at the Burnby Lane site have already unearthed swords, shields, spears, brooches and pots in a number of square barrows, dating back as far as 500BC.
The excavations have revealed intriguing information about life approximately 2,500 years ago. The site offers one of the largest and most significant Iron Age findings of recent times into the 'Arras Culture'.
Paula Ware, managing director at MAP Archaeological Practice Ltd, said: “The chariot was located in the final Square Barrow to be excavated and on the periphery of the cemetery. The chariot at Burnby Lane is only the twenty-sixth one to be excavated in the country and the inclusion of horses raises the significance of the burial.
"The discoveries are set to widen our understanding of the Arras culture and the dating of artefacts to secure contexts is exceptional.
"We’ve been working closely with David Wilson Homes to ensure that the site is recorded to it’s full potential. The archive of the excavations and the conservation of the artefacts will preserve the results for the benefit of future generations of academics and researchers.
"The discovery is an example of what can be revealed and discovered when house developers and archaeologists work together in advance of construction. We look forward to investigating the archaeological significance of the excavation.”
With a major gap in studies into the Iron Age population, the site is of national and international significance, as the discovery may shape historians’ understanding of this period in time.
A major focus area of the archaeological analysis will concentrate on the origins of the local Iron Age population, hopefully, to show whether they were indigenous or had continental connections.
The chariot was the rare possession of a high status individual, but the deliberate inclusion of the horses as part of the burial rite is highly unusual.
A circular wheel associated in close proximity to the horse skeleton suggests that the animals played a crucial role in the burial ceremony.
Peter Morris, Development Director at David Wilson Homes, said: “The new findings are extremely exciting for the further clarity they bring to understanding Iron Age Britain and have put Pocklington firmly on the heritage map."
David Wilson Homes has worked with MAP Archaeological Practice and the local community to ensure the findings will remain in Pocklington and can be enjoyed by the local community for years to come.
Mr Morris added: "These finds offer a fascinating heritage for the local area, which can help bind communities who come to call this place their home in the future. As part of our strategy to work closely with the local community, we’ve been liaising with the Pocklington Historic Society to ensure that the findings remain in the local area alongside the original artefacts.
"A study is already underway – set to be the largest of an Iron Age population undertaken in the last 35 years – so the findings will help us to gain a better understanding of the culture and area at the time.”
Councillor Stephen Parnaby OBE, leader of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, said: “The finding of a chariot burial site at Burnby Lane, is of international significance and is an example of the rich history of East Yorkshire. The Humber Archaeology Partnership inform us that these types of burials from the Iron Age are mainly found in the East Riding.
“This discovery is really exciting and, as the local planning authority, we would like to place on record our thanks and appreciation to David Wilson Homes for halting their works and allowing experts to study the site in detail and record this for future generations.”
The latest finds have been revealed ahead of the second phase of the housing development at Pavilion Square which is set to launch on Saturday April 1.