Dolmen

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Poulnabrone dolmen, the Burren, County Clare, Ireland. Paulnabrone.jpg
Poulnabrone dolmen, the Burren, County Clare, Ireland.
A Megalithic dolmen in Amadalavalasa, Andhra Pradesh, India. Dolmens in Amadalavalasa.jpg
A Megalithic dolmen in Amadalavalasa, Andhra Pradesh, India.

A dolmen ( /ˈdɒlmɛn/ ) is a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of two or more vertical megaliths supporting a large flat horizontal capstone or "table". Most date from the early Neolithic (40003000 BC) and were sometimes covered with earth or smaller stones to form a tumulus. Small pad-stones may be wedged between the cap and supporting stones to achieve a level appearance. [1] In many instances, the covering has weathered away, leaving only the stone "skeleton" of the mound intact.

Contents

It remains unclear when, why and by whom the earliest dolmens were made. The oldest known are found in Western Europe, dating from c 7,000 years ago. Archaeologists still do not know who erected these dolmens, which makes it difficult to know why they did it. They are generally all regarded as tombs or burial chambers, despite the absence of clear evidence for this. Human remains, sometimes accompanied by artefacts, have been found in or close to the dolmens which could be scientifically dated using radiocarbon dating. However, it has been impossible to prove that these remains date from the time when the stones were originally set in place. [2]

Etymology

Dolmen at Ganghwa Island, South Korea Example of a southern-style dolmen at Ganghwa Island.jpg
Dolmen at Ganghwa Island, South Korea

The word dolmen has an unclear history. The word entered archaeology when Théophile Corret de la Tour d'Auvergne used it to describe megalithic tombs in his Origines gauloises (1796) using the spelling dolmin (the current spelling was introduced about a decade later and had become standard in French by about 1885). [3] [4] The Oxford English Dictionary does not mention "dolmin" in English and gives its first citation for "dolmen" from a book on Brittany in 1859, describing the word as "The French term, used by some English authors, for a cromlech ...". The name was supposedly derived from a Breton language term meaning "stone table" but doubt has been cast on this, and the OED describes its origin as "Modern French". A book on Cornish antiquities from 1754 said that the current term in the Cornish language for a cromlech was tolmen ("hole of stone") and the OED says that "There is reason to think that this was the term inexactly reproduced by Latour d'Auvergne [sic] as dolmen, and misapplied by him and succeeding French archaeologists to the cromlech". [5] Nonetheless it has now replaced cromlech as the usual English term in archaeology, when the more technical and descriptive alternatives are not used. The later Cornish term was quoit - an English language word for an object with a hole through the middle preserving the original Cornish language term of 'Tolmen' - the name of another dolmen-like monument is in fact Mên-an-Tol 'stone with hole' (SWF: Men An Toll. [6]

Since most of the dolmens are located in the Korean peninsula and Manchuria, which was the Korean territory when the dolmens were built, the word, dolmen, is most likely to have originated from Korean. In fact, "dol" or "dolmeni" means stone in Korean. Hence the word dolmen was originated.

Dolmens are known by a variety of names in other languages, including Irish : dolmain, Galician and Portuguese : anta, Bulgarian: Долмени Dolmeni, German : Hünengrab/Hünenbett, Afrikaans and Dutch : hunebed, Basque : trikuharri, Abkhazian : Adamra, Adyghe Ispun, dysse (Danish and Norwegian), dös (Swedish), Korean : 고인돌 {{transl|kor|goindol (modernized word: stacked stone), "dol (stone)", and Hebrew : גַלעֵד. Granja is used in Portugal, Galicia, and Spain. The rarer forms anta and ganda also appear. In the Basque Country, they are attributed to the jentilak , a race of giants.

The etymology of the German : Hünenbett, Hünengrab and Dutch : hunebed - with Hüne/hune meaning "giant" - all evoke the image of giants buried (bett/bed/grab = bed/grave) there. Of other Celtic languages, Welsh : cromlech was borrowed into English and quoit is commonly used in English in Cornwall.

Types

See also

Related Research Articles

Passage grave Type of megalithic tomb

A passage grave or passage tomb consists of one or more burial chambers covered in earth or with stone, and having a narrow access passage made of large stones. These structures usually date from the Neolithic Age, and are found largely in Western Europe. When covered in earth, a passage grave is a type of burial mound which are found in various forms all over the world. When a passage grave is covered in stone, it is a type of cairn.

Menhir Large upright standing stone

A menhir, standing stone, orthostat, or lith is a large man-made upright stone, typically dating from the European middle Bronze Age. They can be found solely as monoliths, or as part of a group of similar stones. Menhirs' size can vary considerably, but they are generally uneven and squared, often tapering towards the top.

Megalith Large stone used to build a structure or monument

A megalith is a large pre-historic stone that has been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. There are over 35,000 in Europe alone, ranging from Sweden to the Mediterranean sea.

Hwasun County County in Honam, South Korea

Hwasun County is a county in South Jeolla Province, South Korea.

Stone circle monument of standing stones arranged in a circle

A stone circle is a circular alignment of standing stones. They are commonly found across Northern Europe and Great Britain, and typically date from the Late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age eras, with most concentrations appearing from 3000 BCE. The best known examples include those at the henge monument at Avebury, the Rollright Stones and elements within the ring of standing stones at Stonehenge. Ancient stone circles appear throughout Europe, with many appearing in the Pyrenees, on the Causse de Blandas in southern France in the Cevennes, in the Alps, Bulgaria, and Poland. Another type can be found in the Horn of Africa.

Chamber tomb communal burial places, cut into rock or hillslopes or constructed of masonry, whose chamber may or may not have an entry passage, usually covered by a mound

A chamber tomb is a tomb for burial used in many different cultures. In the case of individual burials, the chamber is thought to signify a higher status for the interree than a simple grave. Built from rock or sometimes wood, the chambers could also serve as places for storage of the dead from one family or social group and were often used over long periods for multiple burials.

A cromlech is a megalithic construction made of large stone blocks. The word applies to two different megalithic forms in English, the first being an altar-tomb, as William Borlase first denoted in 1769. A good example is at Carn Llechart. The second meaning of the name "cromlech" in English refers to large stone circles such as the ones found among the Carnac stones in Brittany, France.

Carnac stones stone rows in Carnac, France

The Carnac stones are an exceptionally dense collection of megalithic sites in Brittany in northwestern France, consisting of stone alignments (rows), dolmens, tumuli and single menhirs. More than 3,000 prehistoric standing stones were hewn from local granite and erected by the pre-Celtic people of Brittany, and form the largest such collection in the world. Most of the stones are within the Breton village of Carnac, but some to the east are within La Trinité-sur-Mer. The stones were erected at some stage during the Neolithic period, probably around 3300 BCE, but some may date to as early as 4500 BCE.

Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites dolmen

The Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites are the location of hundreds of stone dolmens which were used as grave markers, and for ritual purposes during the first millennium BCE when the Megalithic Culture was prominent on the Korean Peninsula. The sites were designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000. Korea is said to contain more than 40% of the world's dolmen, which are mostly concentrated in these three sites.

Tregiffian Burial Chamber

The Tregiffian Burial Chamber is a Neolithic or early Bronze Age chambered tomb. It is near Lamorna in west Cornwall, United Kingdom. It is a rare form of a passage grave, known as an Entrance grave. It has an entrance passage, lined with stone slabs, which leads into a central chamber. This type of tomb is also found in the neighbouring Isles of Scilly.

Trethevy Quoit Dolmen in the Cornwall region, England

Trethevy Quoit is a well-preserved megalithic tomb that lies between St Cleer and Darite in Cornwall, United Kingdom. It is known locally as "the giant's house". Standing 9 feet (2.7 m) high, it consists of five standing stones capped by a large slab and was added to the Heritage At Risk register in 2017.

This article describes several characteristic architectural elements typical of European megalithic structures.

Lanivet Human settlement in England

Lanivet is a village and civil parish in Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The village is situated approximately 2 12 miles (4.0 km) southwest of Bodmin, and before the Bodmin by-pass was built, the A30 road between London and Land's End passed through the village. The Saints' Way long-distance footpath passes Lanivet near its half-way point.

Meehambee Dolmen megalithic portal tomb in County Roscommon, Ireland

The Meehambee Dolmen is a megalithic portal tomb dating from about 3500 BC located in County Roscommon, Ireland.

Megaliths in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern ancient megalithic tombs in Germany

In the area of present-day Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany, up to 5,000 megalith tombs were erected as burial sites by people of the Neolithic Funnelbeaker (TRB) culture. More than 1,000 of them are preserved today and protected by law. Though varying in style and age, megalith structures are common in Western Europe, with those in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern belonging to the youngest and easternmost—further east, in the modern West Pomeranian Voivodeship of Poland, monuments erected by the TRB people did not include lithic structures, while they do in the south (Brandenburg), west and north (Denmark).

Sperris Quoit Dolmen in the Cornwall region, England

Sperris Quoit is a ruined megalithic burial chamber or dolmen, and one of a type of tomb unique to West Penwith, located on a moor around 365 metres northeast of Zennor Quoit, being roughly halfway between Zennor and Amalveor, Cornwall. It is the northernmost quoit in the Penwith peninsula and a Scheduled Monument.

Simple dolmen Type of dolmen

The simple dolmen or primeval dolmen is an early form of dolmen or megalithic tomb that occurs especially in Northern Europe. The term was defined by archaeologist, Ernst Sprockhoff, and utilised by Ewald Schuldt in publicising his excavation of 106 megalithic sites in the north German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The simple dolmen emerged in the early days of the development of megalithic monuments of the Funnelbeaker culture (TBK) and around 3,500 BC they appeared across almost the entire region covered by the stone cult structures of Nordic megalith architecture, but not in the Netherlands, in Lower Saxony west of the River Weser nor east of the River Oder and only once in Sweden.

Unchambered long barrow type of barrow

The unchambered long barrowearthen long barrow, non-megalithic long barrow or non-megalithic mound, is a type of long barrow found across the British Isles, in a belt of land in Brittany, and in northern Europe as far east as the River Vistula. The term "unchambered" means that there is no stone chamber within the stone enclosure. In Great Britain they are often known as non-megalithic long barrows or unchambered long cairns.

Also known as the Yongin Wangsanli Dolmens, the Yongin Wangsanli Jiseongmyo are two single-chamber megalithic tombs from the Bronze Age located in Mohyeon-eup, Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea. Originally called Mohyeon Jiseongmyo, the name was changed to its current state under Gyeonggi-do Decree No. 2016-205 on November 8, 2016. The dolmens were designated as Gyeonggi-do Monument No. 22 in 1974 for their historical value.

References

  1. Murphy (1997), 43
  2. Lewis, S. (2009) Guide to the Menhirs and other Megaliths of Central Brittany, Nezert Books, ISBN   978-952-270-595-2
  3. Bakker, Jan Albert (2009). Megalithic Research in the Netherlands, 1547–1911. Sidestone Press. p. 36. ISBN   978-9088900341.
  4. Corret de la Tour d'Auvergne, Origines gauloises. Celles des plus anciens peuples de l'Europe puisées dans leur vraie source ou recherche sur la langue, l'origine et les antiquités des Celto-bretons de l'Armorique, pour servir à l'histoire ancienne et moderne de ce peuple et à celle des Français , p. PR1, at Google Books, 1796–97.
  5. OED "Dolmen", 1st edition, 1897
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/uk/1999/nov/12/maevkennedy1

Sources

Further reading