Pocklington Iron Age shield find ‘most significant this century’

The Pocklington Iron Age shield conservation during excavation.
The Pocklington Iron Age shield conservation during excavation.

An Iron Age shield discovered in Pocklington has been hailed ‘the most important British Celtic art object of the millennium’.

The shield was part of an impressive ‘warrior grave’ find uncovered at a Persimmon Homes development in 2018 and its recent preservation has revealed its full glory.

The Pocklington Iron Age shield following conservation.

The Pocklington Iron Age shield following conservation.

Paula Ware, from MAP Archaeological Practice who completed the excavation on behalf of Persimmon Homes, said: “The magnitude and preservation of the Pocklington chariot burial has no British parallel, providing a greater insight into the Iron Age epoch.”

The remarkably preserved bronze shield was found laid face down in the cart of an upright chariot, which had been drawn by two ponies.

The skeleton of a post 46-year-old male was laid upon the shield and considered to be the shield’s owner.

Specialist conservation has revealed a swirling La Tène style architecture, typical of early Celtic art.

The repousse design, made by hammering the bronze sheet from the underside, featured evidence of organic forms, such as spiralling mollusc shells creating a three-legged triskele motif.

The highly decorative asymmetrical design draws the eye to a central raised boss.

Paula said: “The shield features a scalloped border.

“This previously unknown design feature is not comparable to any other Iron Age finds across Europe, adding to its valuable uniqueness.

“The popular belief is that elaborate metal-faced shields were purely ceremonial, reflecting status, but not used in battle.

“Our investigation challenges this with the evidence of a puncture wound in the shield typical of a sword.

“Signs of repairs can also be seen, suggesting the shield was not only old but likely to have been well-used.”

The shield formed part of the ‘warrior grave’ discovery revealed at Persimmon Homes Yorkshire’s The Mile development last year.

Scott Waters, director in charge at Persimmon Homes Yorkshire, said: “The excavation at The Mile development is a truly magnificent discovery for British history and we feel this recognition and find should remain in the local area.”