THE skeletal remains of four Iron Age horses are helping archaeologists to shed new light on the history of a village.

The horses were discovered lying nose-to-tail in a ritual burial during excavations at Nosterfield Quarry, near Ripon, North Yorkshire.

The results of carbon-dating tests show they date back to about 50AD, shortly after the Romans set foot in Britain.

Archaeologist Mike Griffiths, whose team has been carrying out investigations funded by Tarmac Northern, said: "Ritual multi-burials of horses are rare and a find of this nature helps us to know more about the Iron Age people who lived in this area 2,000 years ago."

The burial pit - or barrow - containing the remains was discovered earlier this year as archaeologists from Field Archaeological Specialists, based at York University, watched over the removal of topsoil at the sand and gravel quarry.

Zooarchaeologist Steve Rowland, who made the find, said: "Two of the skeletons were virtually intact, but the other two had been damaged through ploughing of the land in previous years and it was only after further investigation that we were able to confirm the full extent of the burial and understand its ritual significance."

Details about archaeological discoveries at Nosterfield can be found on the website