The discovery of the remains of an Iron Age horse and chariot buried together has been declared a find of “international significance” by archaeologists.
The find of the remains dating back to 500BC is the first of its kind in the last 200 years and one of only 26 ever excavated in the UK.
The discovery was made at a new housing development in Pocklington, East Yorkshire, and has forced a halt to construction work.
Archaeologists say it is highly unusual for a horse and chariot to be buried together.
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 26th 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 (Middle Iron Age) culture and the dating of artefacts to secure contexts is exceptional.”
A circular wheel close to the horse skeleton suggests that the animals played a crucial role in the burial ceremony.
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.
With a major gap in studies into the Iron Age population, the site is being hailed as of national and international significance.
Ware said: “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.”
Developer David Wilson Homes has been liaising with Pocklington Historic Society to ensure the findings remain in the area alongside the original artefacts.
Peter Morris, David Wilson Homes development director, said: “We’re delighted that we can play a role in exposing the rich history of this country prior to starting work on construction.
“We understand the importance of ensuring the findings are removed from site carefully so we can try and preserve these artefacts.”
The dig at the Burnby Lane site has previously unearthed artefacts including a sword, shield, spears, brooches and pots in a large number of square barrows.
The excavations give a fascinating insight into life over 2,500 years ago - including the people of the Arras culture.
A study of the Iron Age population in the area is already underway to determine a better understanding of the recent findings.
The latest finds have been revealed ahead of the second phase of the Pavilion Square housing development, which will start from April 1.