You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Dolmens’ category.

 
The 4,000 year-old decorated dolmen discovered in Israel
Image credit Gonen Sharon, Tel Hai College
 
Ginger Perales, writing in the New Historian, reports on the discovery of a decorated dolmen in the Galilee area of Israel –
 
Archaeologists working in upper Galilee, near Kibbutz Shamir, have unearthed an unusual dolmen believed to be over 4,000-years-old. A type of megalithic tomb with a single chamber, a dolmen is typically comprised of at least two large vertical stones that support a flat capstone which lies horizontally on top of them (like a table).
 
Discovered in a large field of over 400 dolmens dating back to the Intermediate Bronze Age, several factors cause this structure to stand out, including its large size, the structure that surrounds it, and most intriguingly, the artistic decorations that are etched into its ceiling.
 
More here.
 
 
 
Carn Wnda Cromlech (Dolmen), Pembrokeshire, Wales
©
The Heritage Trust
 
Did Neolithic people have hierarchies? Almost certainly. Writing in the New Historian, Irina Slav, reports that –
 
A study by two Spanish anthropologists has yielded a hypothesis that communities in the late Neolithic and Chalcolithic ages were already starting to stratify, based on the examination of seven megalithic burial structures. According to Teresa Fernandez-Crespo and Concepcion de la Rua from the UPV/EHU University of the Basque Country, the gender and age characteristics of those buried in megalithic structures suggest some members of the community were selected for such burial while others were excluded.
 
Full article here.
   

Blackrock Dolmen (1987) a sculpture by Rowan Gillespie
Image credit: Sarah777  at en.wikipedia. Transferred to Commons by User: Gerardus using CommonsHelper. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Here at The Heritage Trust we’re very fond of a dolmen or two (as you may have noticed). So, it was a great pleasure to stumble on this sculpture by the Irish born sculptor Rowan Gillespie entitled Blackrock Dolmen which is now on show in Blackrock, Dublin, Ireland.

More of Rowan’s truly inspirational work here.

One of the largest dolmens in the Jungnim-ri dolmen group in Maesan Village, Gochang County, North Jeolla Province, South Korea
Image credit Steve46814. Source Wikimedia Commons

The Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen sites contain the highest density and greatest variety of dolmens in Korea, and indeed of any country. Dolmens are megalithic funerary monuments, which figured prominently in Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures across the world during the 2nd and 1st millennia BCE. Usually consisting of two or more undressed stone slabs supporting a huge capstone, it is generally accepted that they were simply burial chambers, erected over the bodies or bones of deceased worthies. They are usually found in cemeteries on elevated sites and are of great archaeological value for the information that they provide about the prehistoric people who built them and their social and political systems, beliefs and rituals, and arts and ceremonies.

Source UNESCO Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites.

   

 
One of some fifty dolmens still remaining in the Sochi area of Russia
Image credit Lori, Legion Media
 
With the 2014 Winter Olympics beginning next month in Sochi, a city situated on the Black Sea coast of Russia, our readers might be interested in another reason to visit the area. Even without its fifth century bce connections to ancient Greece, Sochi holds a special place in Russian history, and it would be good to know that it is recognised, understood and promoted during the 2014 Olympic Games. Perhaps, too, some of the revenue from the Games could be allocated towards protecting and preserving these wonderful ancient monuments from Russia’s prehistory.
 
Sochi, according to Wikipedia, was –
 
…populated during the Lower Paleolithic more than 100,000 years ago by early humans migrating from Asia Minor through Colchis. They first formed open-type settlements, but during the Middle Paleolithic (100,000–35,000 years ago) moved to caves due to the global cooling. One evidence of that is known as a 40,000–50,000 old site in the Akhshtyrskaya Cave, 15 km from Adlersky City District. The cave is protected by the UNESCO and contains human remains, early tools and bones of bears, deer and other animals indicating the hunting nature of the inhabitants. In the Upper Paleolithic (35,000–10,000 years ago) they have developed techniques of producing elaborated stone tools.
 
The Ancient Greeks sailed to the Sochi area in the fifth–sixth centuries BC and kept visiting it till about first century BC. They encountered the Aehi, Zygii and other people who were apparently keen for the luxury goods brought by Greeks and exchanged them for slaves. Slaves were a major commodity of the time, and thus the Caucasian coast became a slave trade center. An ethnic group of a few thousands of Greeks still lives around Krasnaya Polyana. Between 2,000 and 1,800 BC, the coastal area around Sochi had one cultural entity. During this period, numerous stone monuments (dolmens) were built around Sochi, and at least fifty remain to the present day. It is still unclear how these tombs weighing tens of tons were built with such an accuracy (some stones match each other within millimetres), and what exactly their purpose was. Numerous bronze tools and trade objects, dated to 800–700 BC, were found near Sochi indicating active exchange with the nearby areas.
 
Source Wikipedia. See also the website and picture gallery here.
 

The Trefael Stone

BBC News South West Wales reports yesterday that a ritual burial site in Pembrokeshire may have been in use 10,000 years ago – almost twice as far back as expected –

The Trefael Stone near Nevern was reclassified as a Stone Age burial chamber after its capstone was studied. But a three-year dig [headed Dr George Nash] has since found beads dating back much further, perhaps to the Neolithic or Mesolithic periods.

For centuries the Trefael standing stone was largely disregarded as just one of hundreds of similar Bronze Age monuments. Yet closer analysis of its distinctive cup marks now indicate that they loosely match the pattern of stellar constellations. This would only make sense if, rather than standing upright, it had originally been laid flat as a capstone which would have once been supported by a series of upright stones.

Dr Nash believes the Trefael Stone in fact topped a Neolithic burial chamber, probably a portal dolmen, which is one of western Britain’s earliest burial monument types. “Many years ago Trefael was considered just a simple standing stone lying in a windswept field, but the excavation programme has proved otherwise,” he said. “It suggests that Trefael once lay in the heart of a ritualised landscape that was in operation for at least 5-6,000 years.

Full article here. See also the Welsh Rock-art Organization (WRAO) and our earlier features here and here.

 

A guest feature by Roy Goutté. Text and images © Roy Goutté.

Trethevy Quoit summer 2012

On the 31st of January 2013 I made an unscheduled visit to Trethevy Quoit, a portal dolmen sited in a field adjacent to the tiny hamlet of Trecarne just off the south-eastern fringes of Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. Grid Ref: SX259688. Accompanying me was an English Heritage at Risk Project Officer. Prior to this we had spent time on Craddock Moor discussing the possibility of remedial work being carried out on its stone circle which had fallen into disrepair and was slowly being consumed by the peat beneath and the gorse and brush above! The visit to the quoit, just some two miles away, was a very welcome time filler for the officer who had time to kill before her next appointment.

Over the past two years I had spent many hours at the quoit researching for my new book Trethevy Quoit… Cornwall’s Megalithic Masterpiece and had on many occasions during those visits sat on the lush grass of the quoits empty field and looked on in wonder at what our great ancestors had bequeathed us, but I wasn’t prepared for what I was to cast my eyes on that day. Horses… and plenty of them!

Without a care in the world it would seem, horses and ponies had been allowed to run free in the field without making any attempt whatsoever to protect the monument. Not even the simplest of electrified animal fencing had been installed which was simply inviting disaster. Due to our overly wet winter in Cornwall, and the horses galloping around like mad things, the ground had become so churned up that the grass in places had been replaced by mud and was no longer visible! Naturally the English Heritage Officer was as equally appalled as I was and immediately took notes and photographs to report back with.

Today (the 16th February) I made a return visit and was even more horrified. The horses had either been removed or out being ridden for a few hours, but the field area around the quoit was much, much worse than it had been before with huge tractor tyre tracks around it and hoof prints encroaching up to and onto the low remaining banked cairn surrounding the base of the quoit. It was in danger of becoming unstable if this was to continue as the side orthostats/slabs of the tomb rely on the banked cairn being there to keep their base in place! The consequences of this banking becoming dislodged or destroyed didn’t bear thinking about!

roy 2

Tractor tyres and hoof-prints cutting up the ground to the north of the quoit with hoof-prints embedded in the banked cairn holding the side flanking stones in position

And the same to the southern side showing the banked cairn being encroached upon

I contacted English Heritage immediately and have left it in their hands. I stressed the importance of an immediate visit and emailed them a series of photographs. I also shot a video showing the damage that had been done and offered them any assistance I can as I live locally.

I find it unbelievable that in these supposed enlightened times a landowner can be so irresponsible as to allow horses to trample all around and over a banked cairn of a Scheduled Monument without making any attempt whatsoever of safeguarding it first. It beggars belief that in this day and age, someone can be so lacking in respect or concern for our heritage.

The quoit has stood in this field for some 5,000+ years and we have been allowed free access to it for as long as memory serves. It is Cornwall’s finest remaining fully standing cromlech and it is irresponsible acts such as this that can remove that access to us, but worse still, see the ultimate demise of Cornwall’s real jewel in the crown… our Megalithic Masterpiece… Trethevy Quoit.

Roy Goutté


5,000 + years of our heritage under siege by inconsiderate landowners and horses

 

The 5,000 year-old Poulnabrone dolmen, Burren, County Clare, Ireland
Source Wikipedia. Image credit Kglavin

Ashleigh Murszewski, writing in The Heritage Daily at the end of last year, asks –

What was the significance of Megalithic Monuments in Atlantic Europe?
 
The construction of megalithic monuments in Atlantic Europe is not restricted to a single purpose, nor do they reflect one aspect of the community that built them. Contrarily, they give well-rounded evidence for practical and symbolic components of the early agricultural lifestyle within the Neolithic. Depictions in the architecture of these structures explore complex symbolism and the socio-ritual interactions where monuments offer places for gatherings. Furthermore, megaliths demonstrate understandings of geometrical and astronomical knowledge in society that was not thought to be established for centuries.
 
Megalithic monuments of Atlantic Europe have long attracted attention from those who are interested in the early past of mankind. The word megalith originates from the Greek, meaning ‘great stone’ and is used when describing stone structures set upright in the Earth dated from 5000 to 500 BC in Atlantic Europe (Balter, 1993).
 
These massive stone structures consist of some of the most famous and visually spectacular archaeological discoveries in the world and signify extensive technical ingenuity and organisation that would be essential to their construction. Their significance is also connected with the development and establishment of the first farming communities in the Neolithic, where their craftsmanship reflects the establishment of territorialism and community identity.
 
Full article here.
 
 
 
A guest feature by Subhashis Das
 
Chokahatu, in the austric Mundaric language (one of the most abundantly spoken languages in primitive India and currently the language of hundreds and thousands of tribals in the east and central part of contemporary India) means ‘the Land of Mourning’. Chokahatu, situated about 80 kms south-east of the capital city of Ranchi, is primarily a megalithic burial ground of the Mundas. Such burial grounds are known as sasandiri, harsali, haragarhi etc in the local Mundaric languages and can be found in almost all the tribal villages in and around Ranchi.
 
But Chokahatu is different.
 
 
It is enormous in size. It is so huge that you can get lost amidst the sea of stones
 
Chokahatu has only two menhirs and the rest are all burial slabs and dolmens. The dolmens are also known as sasandiri to the Oraons, Hos, Mundas and the Asurs. The site was discovered by one T F Pepe way back in the late 19th century (Mr Pepe like Mr Babington has the rarest distinction of discovering numerous megaliths in India in the 19th century). Pepe reported the site to Col. Dalton who visited here in 1871.
 
 
Dalton was bewildered at the enormity of the site. He wrote in the Journal of Asiatic Society of Bengal Vol. 42 in 1872 that his helpers counted the sepulchral slabs to be around 8000 and the area was more than a whopping 7 acres. He believed that there must be an under stratum of these graves and this site must be about two thousand years old. The villagers however disagreed with me, they affirmed the site is of about 14 acres and must be more than two thousand years of age. Well that’s for the archaeologists to decide, if they ever arrive here.
 
 
 The villagers told me that people since very olden times must have been bringing the bones of the deceased for burial in this sacred land from all over the country. Even today people come from far off places for burial in this holy land. They build dolmens over the dead of their relatives, carting the slabs on vehicles.
 
 
What makes Chokahatu more significant to the scholars and the common man is its continued use since its inception.
 
 
These are modern day dolmens
 
Chokahatu is one of the oldest historical sites in India, and has been used since ancient times in an uninterrupted manner.  Chokahatu is also a place that can claim the status of a ‘continuing living heritage’. Surely, therefore, Chokahatu is a worthy contender as a World Heritage Site. Chokahatu, such a significant site, still lingers in utter negligence like any other megalithic sites in India; but then megaliths, being tribal heritages, are not worthy of respect here.
 
Subhashis Das.
 
 
Read more about the Megaliths of India by Subhashis Das on his website here.
 
 
 
The Trefael Stone. Image credit Archaeology Safaris UK
 
The Western Telegraph reports yesterday that –
 
Rare finds have prompted archaeologists to rewrite the history of an ancient north Pembrokeshire stone. The Trefael Stone, a scheduled ancient monument in a Nevern field, was originally thought to be an ancient standing stone, but is actually the capstone of a 5,500-year-old tomb, according to new research from a Bristol University archaeologist. Dr George Nash and colleagues’ excavations at the site indicate that the 1.2m high stone once covered a small burial chamber, probably a portal dolmen, Wales’ earliest Neolithic burial-ritual monument type.
 
The stone has multiple cupmarks, circular holes gouged into its surface associated with ritual burial activity in the Neolithic and Bronze Age. As the first archaeologists to fully investigate the site, Dr Nash and his colleagues Thomas Wellicome and Adam Stanford found a further 30 cupmarks of varying size and quality on the stone, along with an array of prehistoric artefacts that led the team to suggest that this site was more than just a standing stone.
 
Full article here.
 
 

Trefael Stone and illuminating the cupmarks. Image © Adam Stanford and WRAO

Writing in The Independent on Tuesday, 10 April, Dalya Alberge reports that –

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a Neolithic portal dolmen, one of Western Europe’s oldest ritual burial chambered monuments, in an isolated field in Wales. It is thought the tomb was built from giant boulders about 5,500 years ago. Its capstone bears a seemingly random pattern of dozens of circular holes gouged into its surface – symbols of Neolithic or Bronze Age ritual burial activity. What makes it particularly interesting is that the site has rare remains of human bones and shards of decorated pottery.

The archaeological excavation near Newport in Pembrokeshire has been led by George Nash, Thomas Wellicome and Adam Stanford, who plan to resume work in September. Dr Nash, an archaeologist and lecturer at Bristol University, said: “The dolmen is the earliest type of monument you can find in the Neolithic era. “It is very rare to discover such a site of this age. Since 1600, intense farming practices have meant a lot of ancient sites were destroyed. What is unique about the whole thing is that we are dealing with thick, acidic soils but the bones and the pottery have survived.”

Full article here. Detailed reports on The Welsh Rock Art Organization website here and Past Horizons here. See also The Heritage Trust’s 2012 Outreach Event which will take place in Solva, Pembrokeshire. The Event begins on Monday, 16 July and lasts until Wednesday, 18 July.

 

 

Carreg Samson © The Heritage Trust

The Heritage Trust will be holding an outreach event over three days from Monday evening, 16 July to Wednesday evening, 18 July. The theme this year will focus on the dolmens of the Pembrokeshire Coast, south-west Wales. Visits to Carreg Coetan Arthur, Carreg Samson and Pentre Ifan are planned. Time and weather permitting, a visit to Carn Menyn, the possible source of the bluestones at Stonehenge, will also be included. The event is free, and  will begin with an evening drink at the Cambrian Inn in Solva, Pembrokeshire on Monday, 16 July and end with a dinner on 18 July (costs for both are not included in the event).

Photos of The Cambrian Inn, Solva
This photo of The Cambrian Inn is courtesy of TripAdvisor

For further information and updates please follow The Heritage Trust: 2012 Outreach Event link on the Trust’s Forthcoming events page or contact us at info@theheritagetrust.org

 

 

 
Trevethy Stone, Cornwall, by Charles Knight (circa 1845). Also known as King Arthur’s Quoit, The Giant’s House and Trethevy Quoit. Private collection, Great Britain
 
 

Categories

March 2017
S M T W T F S
« Feb    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031  
Follow The Heritage Trust on WordPress.com
%d bloggers like this: