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The Arras culture is a name given by archaeologists to an Iron Age culture from what is today eastern Yorkshire. It is named after the cemetery site of Arras near Market Weighton in East Yorkshire which was discovered in the nineteenth century.
It is characterised by a method of inhumation not found elsewhere in the British Isles and is thought to represent a culturally distinct group of people who inhabited the area at the time. Parallels exist with continental burial rites however.
Their lands stretched from the banks of the River Humber to the Vale of Pickering and they differed from the other British peoples of the period in three ways. Firstly they used large inhumation cemeteries when elsewhere cremation and smaller graveyards were prevalent. Secondly they defined the barrows built over their graves with a rectangular ditched enclosure and finally high-status burials were made with (usually dismantled) two-wheeled vehicles left in the tomb along with the deceased. Examples include the burials at Wetwang. These vehicles have given them the name of chariot burials.
Traditionally, this similarity was explained by means of a migration of people, the Parisii, moving northwards from the continent to settle in eastern Britain c. 450 BC. An alternative explanation is that the British Arras culture was an by some of the natives attempt to ape continental society. It may be that the upper echelons of British society were trying to distinguish themselves by copying foreign ways. The vehicle burial aspect of the culture developed in Britain only in the third and second centuries BC which suggests that they were adopted independently or that they were forgotten and then re-introduced by the immigrants.
Either way, the Arras culture indicates strong cultural and economic links between the two regions during the period.
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