The Arras culture is one of several regional cultures that existed in BRITAIN during the IRON AGE. It is clearly distinguishable from most of its local contemporaries by the culture’s uncommon burial rites, which are more reminiscent of Continental European La Tene practices than those of Iron Age Britain. The custom of burying the deceased with their chariots (see chariot; vehicle burials) and of burying individuals within square ENCLOSURES (or possibly square barrows with a surrounding ditch) is largely unknown in the rest of the British Iron Age. However, it is noteworthy that the Arras vehicles are usually disassembled, a practice less commonly seen in the continental chariot burials.
These Arras burials are confined to a restricted area in east Yorkshire (see map). The recently discovered outlying chariot burial from Edinburgh (Dun Eideann) appears to correspond more closely to the Continental rite. Chronologically, the Arras burials cover most of the second half of the 1st millennium bc up to the Roman conquest, which reached this area in the ad 70s.
Excavated cart and chariot burials of the Arras culture. (Map by John T. Koch)
The mixed Continental influences and local traditions, in conjunction with the reference in the Geography of Ptolemy (2.3.10) to Parisi on the north bank of the Humber, makes it tempting to draw a connection with the ancient Parisii, the Gaulish tribe who gave their name to the capital of France. The name in both cases is Celtic, ‘the commanders’; cf. Welsh peryf ‘lord’. As yet, however, no solid evidence exists to prove that the British tribe was an offshoot of its namesake in GAUL.