Rein rings from the chariot burial at Wetwang

Iron Age, around 300 BC
East Yorkshire, England

British Iron Age chariots usually had five rein rings, or 'terrets', fixed along the top of the wooden yoke that spans the horses. At the Wetwang chariot burial they were still attached to the yoke when it was placed in the grave, probably held in place by straps that pass round the iron bar in the base of the ring and through slots in the yoke. The excavators found them in a line where the yoke had rotted away.

Each ring was elaborately decorated. When new, they would have been shiny bronze, decorated with bright red coral studs set into raised bosses. Red coral would have been very rare in Iron Age Britain and was probably imported from the Mediterranean Sea or even the Red Sea or Gulf.

Birch-bark tar was used with bronze pins to hold the coral studs in place. This adhesive is manufactured from birch-bark by heating it to temperatures of around 300-400°C. Birch-bark tar has a long history of use in Europe. Finds are known from as early as the Middle Palaeolithic period (around 300,000 to 30,000 years ago) continuing into the Roman period and the material is still manufactured today in some regions.

To find out more and see a reconstruction of the chariot, take the 'Wetwang Chariot Burial' tour.

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Rein rings from the chariot burial at Wetwang

Ring after conservation

  • Ring (no. 4) before conservation

    Ring (no. 4) before conservation

  • Coral stud

    Coral stud

  • Coral stud with ancient birch tar repair

    Coral stud with ancient birch tar repair

 

More information

Bibliography

Dimensions

Museum number

P&EE 2001.4-1.3-7

not on MERLIN

Gift of Hogg the Builders of York

Location

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