Ever since the unearthing of the remains of King Richard III in the Grey Friar’s car park in Leicester, car parks, and many other otherwise inconsequential modern constructions, have acquired a new meaning. In a country like the U.K., where it seems every inch of the surface overlies significant historical or prehistoric artifacts and other ancient human-made features, the truth is that many of them could be hiding something culturally valuable beneath.
In a blog post at the Dig Ventures website, writer and community manager Maiya Pina-Dacier goes beyond the Grey Friar location to expound somewhat on other car parks in the U.K. that, unintended by their makers, top off important archaeological sites.
“There’s so much good stuff buried under car parks that future archaeologists could totally be forgiven for thinking these concrete plazas were ritually significant,” Maiya writes in her blog, “they all seem to be located above an important ancestral site after all.”*
As evidence, she points to seven other car parks in the U.K. that, although enjoying lower public profiles than that of Grey Friar’s, have nevertheless yielded very significant treasures, in the archaeological sense. Her hand-picked parks include the following:
1. The Cromartie Memorial car park in Dingwall, where evidence of a Viking assembly site was uncovered;
2. The Stonehenge visitors’ car park, where archaeologists have found three massive timber post-holes dated to about 10,000 BP;
3. At Railway Inn car park in Merseyside, archaeologists discovered a possible 30-ft. long Viking longboat about 3 meters below the surface;
4. Marlowe car park in Canterbury hides hundreds of structures and associated artifacts, from Belgic through to Roman and Medieval times;
5. Three Kings Pub car park in Haddenham overlies a Saxon burial ground;
6. Skerries Bistro car park in Orkney covers a Neolithic six-chambered tomb complex; and
7. The Horse and Groom pub car park in Gloucestershire sits above a medieval farm complex and, below that, an unusual burial of an Iron Age man.
Above: Excavations taking place in part of a car park in the U.K. This part of the car park was to be redeveloped and, in advance of that, archaeological excavations were scheduled to take place. John S. Turner, Wikimedia Commons
You can read more about this in Maiya’s blog post, *Car Park Archaeology, for details.
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