Fourwentways Bronze Age Cemetery
A 4,000-year-old burial site hides behind a roadside Burger King.
On the face of it, Fourwentways is a shrine to neon-lit modernity at its least romantic. Crowded beside this notoriously congested intersection is a gas station, burger joint, truck stop cafe, and a budget hotel. Hidden behind the shared parking lot of these mundane premises, however, is a surprising site of archaeological importance.
It’s an odd sight, an unexpected blend of old and new. The earth bulges and bubbles, scarred from the activity of ancient mourners. All around it, trucks cough to life and transient patrons enjoy cheap, greasy food and a night of hotel comforts.
Discovered by aerial photography and belied by dark shapes, mounds, and hollows in the ground, is a site of funerary ceremonies. It was mainly used between 2000 and 1500 BC. This group of three “round barrow” burial structures behind Burger King is part of a wider group of barrow burials found within a quarter-mile radius.
Today, the main features of this sacred site are marked by wooden posts, and their significance is explained by an information sign erected by the hotel chain. The whole site was the subject of an archaeological dig in 1994, when fragments of Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Roman pottery were discovered.
The oldest structure in the wider group, which extends beyond the mounds near the Burger King, dates back to the Stone Age, meaning the broader location surrounding this overlooked motorist’s rest area was of great importance as an eternal rest area for the ancient Britons, contemporary with activity at Stonehenge.
Know Before You Go
Being a roadside rest area, this site is most easily visited by car. The service area is signposted from both directions of the main road. Pedestrian access is from the small village of Little Abington.
To enter the car park, despite it appearing to be the exit, drive through the gas station forecourt and pass between Burger King and a large conifer hedge. The burial site is at the far end of the car park in front of the Travelodge Hotel.
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