Archaeologists have unearthed an ancient iron sword next to a Celtic chariot burial site, found in southern Britain.

It came as ongoing excavations take place at the undisclosed site following the discovery by metal detectorist Mike Smith, 46, in February 2018 on farmland in Pembrokeshire, west Wales.

He found a part of a horse harness and it was later sealed off for a trial excavation,  which revealed the curvature of the chariot’s wheels.

In the most recent find, archaeologists have also discovered a tyre iron once belonging to an Iron Age land owner at the site, along with exposing more of the wheels.

Archaeologists suspect they will uncover more beneath the farmland.

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Archaeologists have discovered two iron iron tyres and a sword from the first Celtic chariot burial site found in southern Britain. Metal detectorist Mike Smith, 46, made the discovery in February 2018 on farmland in Pembrokeshire, west Wales. Here, the chariot wheels

Following an initial investigation in June 2018 by archaeologists from National Museum Wales and Dyfed Archaeological Trust, a dig was carried out in March and April, funded by National Museum Wales and found the Iron Age sword (pictured)

An inquest last January heard the site is now legally protected and Mr Smith has to sell the 34 artefacts to a museum by law.

Payment must be shared fifty-fifty with the landowner.

Mr Smith said: ‘I still can’t believe it. Obviously I’ve read other people’s finds. I’ve watched them on telly, and I’ve always thought, I wouldn’t mind finding that, it’s still surreal, and life-changing.’

He claims he is expected to pocket up to £1 million for his discovery.

The find has been hailed as a ‘unique archaeological discovery’ by officials at Cadw – the Welsh equivalent of English Heritage.

Adam Gwilt, principal curator of prehistoric archaeology at National Museum Wales, said: ‘It is the first chariot burial to be found not just in Wales, but in southern Britain.

 

‘Chariots, as war and ceremonial vehicles, were used to display the power and identity of their owners and tribal communities in late Iron Age Britain, as the fine decoration on these artefacts shows.

‘While we still know little about their owner, these chariot pieces probably belonged to a man or woman of some standing within their tribe or community.’

National Museum Wales hopes to display the chariot wheels and sword at St Fagans National Museum of History.

Jay Cooper (left) and Tom Urack (right) from Pembrokeshire College examining the iron age sword archaeologists unearthed in Wales

Officials sealed the site off and for a trial excavation which revealed the tops of a pair of chariot wheels. Archaeologists have since found tyre irons and a sword among a haul of ancient artefacts once belonging to an Iron Age land owner

The exact location of the site has been kept secret for a major dig. The inquest in January heard the site is now legally protected and Mr Smith has to sell the 34 artefacts to a museum by law

The exact location of the site has been kept secret for a major dig. The inquest in January heard the site is now legally protected and Mr Smith has to sell the 34 artefacts to a museum by law

Dr Kate Roberts, Cadw’s principal inspector of ancient monuments, said: ‘A unique archaeological discovery like this stirs our imagination – we wonder who the charioteer was and about the world they lived in.

‘By studying these artefacts we hope to learn more about a time when great change in the shape of the Roman Empire was sweeping across Wales.’

National Museum Wales is hoping to buy the finds so they can be properly conserved.

Reconstruction drawing by Jeremy Richards of a horse drawn Celtic chariot and charioteer in Iron Age Britain. The Iron Age was an archaeological era, referring to a period of time approximating 1200 BC to 600 BC, it was not is not an archaeological horizon, but rather a locally diverse cultural phase

Elements of the chariot are still somewhat preserved and will now be housed in a museum

He said: ‘It’s guess work but you’re definitely talking six or seven figures.

‘It’s the biggest ever metal detecting find, as in there’s never been a chariot ever discovered by a metal detectorist.

‘There have been hoards found, but never anything like this.’

Mike first found what he thought was a medieval broach but turned out to be part of a Celtic horse harness.

He went straight back the following day and found more red enamel pieces – dating to between AD 25 to 75.

Mike, of Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, said: ‘I knew the importance of them straight away.

‘It was just instinct. I’d read all about chariot burials and just wished it could have been me, so finding this has been a privilege.’

Ground penetrating radar later showed a pattern of buried ditches and walls – suggesting a large Celtic settlement.

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