Important new clues about life in the Iron Age - including links with settlements on the continent - have been discovered during restoration work on remains of the first chariot from the period found in Scotland.

The find, which dates back to 400BC, was made in January 2001 during excavations at the Edinburgh interchange development in the Newbridge area of the city.

Fraser Hunter, curator of the Iron Age and Roman collections at the National Museums of Scotland, said examination of the chariot, which was buried with its owner, showed technology of the time was more advanced than expected.

''One of the interesting things we have found is in the construction of the wheel. The rim is a single piece of wood bent into a circle which is not a simple thing to do,'' he said. He added that it also indicated Iron Age Scotland was not isolated. Similarities in design and materials with chariots discovered in France and Belgium suggested strong links with Europe.

Unlike examples found in Yorkshire, which were dismantled prior to burial, the chariot was buried intact with its male or female owner, who would have been an important person, perhaps a tribal leader, Mr Hunter said. ''It is the Ferrari of the Iron Age. If you were using one of these you were somebody.''

John Lawson, Edinburgh council's city archaeologist, said the burial site could be next to the owner's settlement.

He said: ''Huly Hill, about 200 metres from where the chariot was found, pre-dates the chariot by about 1500 years. It was an early cathedral of the time and it is possible it was always used as a religious site. So this person may have wanted to be buried in the religious centre of the area.''

He suggested the owner could be descended from the Votadini tribe, which lived on the eastern seaboard, from the Lothians to Northumberland from around 2000BC.

A team of 12 experts will work on the chariot and the surrounding soil for the next 18 months.