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Tomb of King Alyattes at Bin Tepe in Lydia, modern Turkey, built circa 560 BCE. It is "one of the largest tumuli ever built", with a diameter of 360 meters and a height of 61 meters. Bin Tepe, large tumulus.jpg
Tomb of King Alyattes at Bin Tepe in Lydia, modern Turkey, built circa 560 BCE. It is "one of the largest tumuli ever built", with a diameter of 360 meters and a height of 61 meters.
The Royal mounds of Gamla Uppsala in Sweden from the 5th and 6th centuries; originally the site had 2,000 to 3,000 tumuli, but due to quarrying and agriculture only 250 remain. Gamla uppsala.jpg
The Royal mounds of Gamla Uppsala in Sweden from the 5th and 6th centuries; originally the site had 2,000 to 3,000 tumuli, but due to quarrying and agriculture only 250 remain.
La Cambe German war cemetery German military cemetery Normandy 1.jpg
La Cambe German war cemetery
One of the Hallstatt culture-era tumuli in the Sulm valley necropolis Sulm valley tumulus.jpg
One of the Hallstatt culture-era tumuli in the Sulm valley necropolis

A tumulus (plural tumuli) is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli are also known as barrows, burial mounds or kurgans , and may be found throughout much of the world. A cairn, which is a mound of stones built for various purposes, may also originally have been a tumulus.

Mound Artificial heaped pile of earth, gravel, sand, rocks, or debris

A mound is a heaped pile of earth, gravel, sand, rocks, or debris. Most commonly, mounds are earthen formations such as hills and mountains, particularly if they appear artificial. A mound may be any rounded area of topographically higher elevation on any surface. Artificial mounds have been created for a variety of reasons throughout history, including ceremonial, burial (tumulus), and commemorative purposes.

Soil mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organisms that together support life

Soil is a mixture of organic matter, minerals, gases, liquids, and organisms that together support life. Earth's body of soil, called the pedosphere, has four important functions:

Rock (geology) A naturally occurring solid aggregate of one or more minerals or mineraloids

A rock is any naturally occurring solid mass or aggregate of minerals or mineraloid matter. It is categorized by the minerals included, its chemical composition and the way in which it is formed. Rocks are usually grouped into three main groups: igneous rocks, metamorphic rocks and sedimentary rocks. Rocks form the Earth's outer solid layer, the crust.


Tumuli are often categorised according to their external apparent shape. In this respect, a long barrow is a long tumulus, usually constructed on top of several burials, such as passage graves. A round barrow is a round tumulus, also commonly constructed on top of burials. The internal structure and architecture of both long and round barrows has a broad range, the categorization only refers to the external apparent shape.

Long barrow Type of dolmen

Long barrows, also known as chambered tombs, are a style of monument constructed across Western Europe in the fifth and fourth millennia BCE, during the Early Neolithic period. Typically constructed from earth and either timber or stone, those using the latter material represent the oldest widespread tradition of stone construction in the world.

Burial Ritual act of placing a dead person into the ground

Burial or interment is a method of final disposition wherein a dead person or animal is placed into the ground, sometimes with objects. This is usually accomplished by excavating a pit or trench, placing the deceased and objects in it, and covering it over. A funeral is a ceremony that accompanies the final disposition. Humans have been burying their dead since shortly after the origin of the species. Burial is often seen as indicating respect for the dead. It has been used to prevent the odor of decay, to give family members closure and prevent them from witnessing the decomposition of their loved ones, and in many cultures it has been seen as a necessary step for the deceased to enter the afterlife or to give back to the cycle of life.

Passage grave Type of megalithic tomb

A passage grave or passage tomb consists of a narrow passage made of large stones and one or multiple burial chambers covered in earth or stone. The building of passage tombs was normally carried out with megaliths and smaller stones; they usually date from the Neolithic Age. Those with more than one chamber may have multiple sub-chambers leading off from the main burial chamber. One common layout, the cruciform passage grave, is cross-shaped. Sometimes passage tombs are covered with a cairn, especially those dating from later times. Not all passage graves have been found to contain evidence of human remains. One such example is Maeshowe. The Passage Tomb tradition is believed to have originated in the French region of Brittany. It was introduced to other regions such as Ireland by colonists from Brittany.

The method of inhumation may involve a dolmen, a cist, a mortuary enclosure, a mortuary house, or a chamber tomb. Examples of barrows include Duggleby Howe and Maeshowe.

Dolmen Type of single-chamber megalithic tomb

A dolmen or cromlech 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 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. In many instances, the covering has weathered away, leaving only the stone "skeleton" of the mound intact.

Cist dolmen

A cist is a small stone-built coffin-like box or ossuary used to hold the bodies of the dead. Examples can be found across Europe and in the Middle East. A cist may have been associated with other monuments, perhaps under a cairn or long barrow. Several cists are sometimes found close together within the same cairn or barrow. Often ornaments have been found within an excavated cist, indicating the wealth or prominence of the interred individual.

A mortuary enclosure is a term given in archaeology and anthropology to an area, surrounded by a wood, stone or earthwork barrier, in which dead bodies are placed for excarnation and to await secondary and/or collective burial. There are some parallels with mortuary houses although the two are the products of different cultural practices and traditions regarding the treatment of the dead.

The word tumulus is Latin for 'mound' or 'small hill', which is derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *teuh2- with extended zero grade *tum-, 'to bulge, swell' also found in tomb, tumor, thumb, thigh, and thousand. [4]

Latin Indo-European language of the Italic family

Latin is a classical language belonging to the Italic branch of the Indo-European languages. The Latin alphabet is derived from the Etruscan and Greek alphabets and ultimately from the Phoenician alphabet.

Proto-Indo-European language proto-language (last common ancestor) of the Indo-European language family

Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is the linguistic reconstruction of the ancient common ancestor of the Indo-European languages, the most widely spoken language family in the world.

Tumulus burial accounts

The funeral of Patroclus is described in book 23 of the Iliad . Patroclus is burned on a pyre, and his bones are collected into a golden urn in two layers of fat. The barrow is built on the location of the pyre. Achilles then sponsors funeral games, consisting of a chariot race, boxing, wrestling, running, a duel between two champions to the first blood, discus throwing, archery and spear throwing.

Patroclus mythological Greek character

In Greek mythology, as recorded in Homer's Iliad, Patroclus was a close friend and wartime companion of Achilles. He was the son of Menoetius, grandson of Actor, King of Opus.

<i>Iliad</i> Epic poem attributed to Homer

The Iliad is an ancient Greek epic poem in dactylic hexameter, traditionally attributed to Homer. Set during the Trojan War, the ten-year siege of the city of Troy (Ilium) by a coalition of Greek states, it tells of the battles and events during the weeks of a quarrel between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles.

Pyre structure for burning a body as part of a funeral rite or execution

A pyre, also known as a funeral pyre, is a structure, usually made of wood, for burning a body as part of a funeral rite or execution. As a form of cremation, a body is placed upon or under the pyre, which is then set on fire.

Beowulf's body is taken to Hronesness, where it is burned on a funeral pyre. During cremation, the Geats lament the death of their lord, a widow's lament being mentioned in particular, singing dirges as they circumambulate the barrow. Afterwards, a mound is built on top of a hill, overlooking the sea, and filled with treasure. A band of twelve of the best warriors ride around the barrow, singing dirges in praise of their lord.

<i>Beowulf</i> Old English epic story

Beowulf is an Old English epic poem consisting of 3,182 alliterative lines. It is one of the most important works of Old English literature. The date of composition is a matter of contention among scholars; the only certain dating pertains to the manuscript, which was produced between 975 and 1025. The author was an anonymous Anglo-Saxon poet, referred to by scholars as the "Beowulf poet".

Geats Northern-Germanic people

The Geats, sometimes called Goths, were a North Germanic tribe who inhabited Götaland in modern southern Sweden during the Middle Ages. They are one of the progenitor groups of modern Swedes, along with Swedes and Gutes. The name of the Geats also lives on in the Swedish provinces of Västergötland and Östergötland, the Western and Eastern lands of the Geats, and in many other toponyms.

A dirge is a somber song or lament expressing mourning or grief, such as would be appropriate for performance at a funeral. The English word dirge is derived from the Latin Dirige, Domine, Deus meus, in conspectu tuo viam meam, the first words of the first antiphon in the Matins of the Office for the Dead, created on basis of Psalms 5:8. The original meaning of dirge in English referred to this office.

Parallels have also been drawn to the account of Attila's burial in Jordanes' Getica . [5] Jordanes tells that as Attila's body was lying in state, the best horsemen of the Huns circled it, as in circus games.

An Old Irish Life of Columcille reports that every funeral procession "halted at a mound called Eala, whereupon the corpse was laid, and the mourners marched thrice solemnly round the spot."

Types of barrows

Archaeologists often classify tumuli according to their location, form, and date of construction (see also mound). Some British types are listed below:

Modern barrows

All cannings long barrow modern exterior.jpg
Exterior and entrance to the new barrow
All cannings longbarrow modern inside.jpg
Inside one of the Chambers of the barrow
The Modern Long Barrow at All Cannings

In 2015, the first long barrow in thousands of years, inspired by those built in the Neolithic Period, was built near All Cannings in England. The project was instigated by Tim Daw, a local farmer and steward of Stonehenge. [6] The barrow was designed to have a large number of private niches within the stone and earth structure to receive cremation urns. The structure received significant media attention, with national press writing extensively about the revival of the structures, and various episodes of filming, for example by BBC Countryfile as it was being built. It was fully subscribed within eighteen months. [7] This was followed soon after by a new barrow near St Neots. [8] Further plans to revive barrows are in development in Herefordshire and at Soulton in Shropshire. [9]


Central Asia

Burial of Oleg of Novgorod in a tumulus in 912. Painting by Viktor Vasnetsov Trizna 1899.jpg
Burial of Oleg of Novgorod in a tumulus in 912. Painting by Viktor Vasnetsov

The word kurgan is of Turkic origin, derives from Proto-Turkic *Kur- ("to erect (a building), to establish"). In Ukraine and Russia, there are royal kurgans of Varangian chieftains, such as the Black Grave in Ukrainian Chernihiv (excavated in the 19th century), Oleg's Grave in Russian Staraya Ladoga, and vast, intricate Rurik's Hill near Russian Novgorod. Other important kurgans are found in Ukraine and South Russia and are associated with much more ancient steppe peoples, notably the Scythians (e.g., Chortomlyk, Pazyryk) and early Indo-Europeans (e.g., Ipatovo kurgan) The steppe cultures found in Ukraine and South Russia naturally continue into Central Asia, in particular Kazakhstan.

Horn of Africa

Salweyn in northern Somalia contains a very large field of cairns, which stretches for a distance of around 8 km. [10] An excavation of one of these tumuli by Georges Révoil in 1881 uncovered a tomb, beside which were artefacts pointing to an ancient, advanced civilization. The interred objects included pottery shards from Samos, some well-crafted enamels, and a mask of Ancient Greek design. [11]

Eastern Europe


Tumuli are one of the most prominent types of prehistoric monuments spread throughout northern and southern Albania. Some well-known local tumuli are:

Bosnia and Herzegovina

More than 50 burial mounds were found in Kupres. Man from Kupres- the skeleton found in one of the tumuli is believed to be more than 3000 years old and it is kept in Gorica museum in Livno. Glasinac has many tumuli. During the Bronze and Iron Age it was a place of strong Glasinac culture, who buried their dead in tumulus.


Memorial of the Battle of Varna dedicated to Wladyslaw III of Poland dug into an ancient Thracian tumulus VarnaMemorial.jpg
Memorial of the Battle of Varna dedicated to Władysław III of Poland dug into an ancient Thracian tumulus

Hundreds of Thracian burial mounds are found throughout Bulgaria, including the Kazanlak and Sveshtari tombs, UNESCO World Heritage sites. Located near the ancient Thracian capital cities of Seuthopolis (of the Odrysian kingdom) and Daosdava or Helis (of the Getae), perhaps they represented royal burials. Other tombs contained offerings such as the Panagyurishte and Rogozen treasures.


There are thousands of tumuli throughout all Croatia, built of stone (Croatian: gomila, gromila) in the carst areas (by the Adriatic Sea) or made of earth (Croatian: humak) in the inland plains and hills. Most of these prehistoric structures were built in the 2nd and 1st millennium BC, from the middle Bronze Age to the end of the Iron Age, by the Illyrians or their direct ancestors in the same place; the Liburnian inhumation of dead under tumuli was certainly inherited from the earlier times, as early as the Copper Age. Smaller tumuli were used as the burial mounds, while bigger (some up to 7 metres high with 60 metres long base) were the cenotaphs (empty tombs) and ritual places. [12]


There are over 40,000 tumuli in the Great Hungarian Plain, the highest is Gödény-halom near the settlement of Békésszentandrás, in Békés county. [13]

Sírhalom origins and forms are diverse: tells, graves, border barrows, watcher barrows. [14]


Western and Central Europe


Grossmugl in Austria Grossmugl - Hugelgrab (1).JPG
Großmugl in Austria


United Kingdom

Part of the burial ground at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk Sutton Hoo burial ground 4.jpg
Part of the burial ground at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk

In the United Kingdom, barrows of a wide range of types were in widespread use for burying the dead from the late Neolithic until the end of the Bronze Age, 2900-800 BC. Square barrows were occasionally used in the Iron Age (800 BC-43 AD) in the east of England. The traditional round barrow experienced a brief resurgence following the Anglo-Saxon conquests, with the introduction of northern Germanic burial practices from continental Europe. These later barrows were often built near older Bronze Age barrows. They included a few instances of ship burial. Barrow burial fell out of use during the 7th century as a result of the spread of Christianity. Early scholarly investigation of tumuli and theorising as to their origins was undertaken from the 17th century by antiquaries, notably John Aubrey, and William Stukeley. During the 19th century in England the excavation of tumuli was a popular pastime amongst the educated and wealthy upper classes, who became known as "barrow-diggers". This leisure activity played a key role in laying the foundations for the scientific study of the past in Britain but also resulted in untold damage to the sites.

Notable British barrows include:

Czech Republic

During the early Middle Ages, Slavic tribesmen inhabiting what is now the Czech Republic used to bury their dead under barrows. This practice has been widespread in southern and eastern Bohemia and some neighbouring regions, like Upper Austria and Lusatia, which at that time have been also populated with Slavic people. There are no known Slavic barrows in the central part of the country (around Prague), nor are they found in Moravia. This has led some of the archaeologists to speculations about at least three distinct waves of Slavic settlers, who colonized Czech lands separately from each other, each wave bringing its customs with it (including burial rituals).

At places where barrows have been constructed, they are usually found in groups (10 to 100 together), often forming several clearly distinct lines going from the west to the east. Only a few of them have been studied scientifically so far; in them, both burials by fire (with burnt ashes) and unburned skeletons have been found, even on the same site. It seems that builders of the barrows have at some time switched from burials by fire to burying of unburned corpses; the reason for such change is unknown. The barrows date too far back in history (700 AD to 800 AD) to contain any Christian influences.

As Czech barrows usually served for burials of poor villagers, only a few objects are found in them except for cheap pottery. Only one Slavic barrow is known to have contained gold.

Most of the Czech burial barrows have been damaged or destroyed by intense agriculture in the densely populated region. Those that remain are usually in forests, especially at hilltops in remote places. Therefore, there is no general knowledge about burial barrows among Czech population.

The best Slavic barrow sites can be found near to Vitín, a small village close to České Budějovice. There are two groups of barrows close to Vitín, each containing about 80 barrows ordered in lines. Some of the barrows are as much as 2 metres high.

There are also some prehistoric burial barrows in Czech Republic, built by unknown people. Unlike Slavic barrows, they can be found all across the country, though they are scarce. Distinguishing them from Slavic ones is not an easy task for the unskilled eye. Perhaps the most famous of them forms the top of the Žuráň hill near Slavkov u Brna; it is from here that Napoleon commanded his forces during the Battle of Austerlitz.


The mound of Dissignac is a megalithic monument located in the French town of Saint-Nazaire Tumulus Dissignac2.jpg
The mound of Dissignac is a megalithic monument located in the French town of Saint-Nazaire


Hügelgrab ("barrow", "burial mound" or "tumulus") sites in Germany dating to the Early and Middle Bronze Age.

Auleben (Auleben grave-hill field) Auleben Nordhausen Thuringia Grave-hill field1500 - 1200 BC Bronze Age
Benther hill Badenstedt  [ de ] Region Hannover Lower Saxony Hilly-grave1800 - 1100 BCEarly Nordic Bronze Age
Kreuzlinger Forst  [ de ]/Mühltal Gauting Munich area Bavaria Hilly-grave2000 - 1500 BC Bronze Age
Germans Grave (Itzehoe)  [ de ] Itzehoe Kreis Steinburg Schleswig-Holstein Hilly-grave1500 - 1300 BC Bronze Age
Giesen Tumuli  [ de ] Giesen (village)  [ de ] Landkreis Hildesheim Lower Saxony Hilly-grave1600 - 1200 BC Bronze Age
Bonstorf Barrows Bonstorf Landkreis Celle Lower Saxony grave-hill field1500 - 1200 BC Bronze Age
Lahnberge Tumuli  [ de ] Marburg Landkreis Marburg-Biedenkopf Hesse >200 Hilly-graves1600 - 5th century BC Middle Bronze Age (Tumulus culture), Late Bronze Age (Urnfield culture), Iron Age (Hallstatt Culture)
Wilhof mountain  [ de ] Willhof Landkreis Schwandorf Bavaria Hilly-grave1516 BC Middle Bronze Age, early La Tene culture
Daxberg Tumuli (Mömbris) Daxberg (Mömbris)  [ de ] Landkreis Aschaffenburg Bavaria Hilly-grave field2000 - 800 BC Iron Age
Hohenfelde Hohenfelde (Mecklenburg) Mecklenburgische Seenplatte Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 7 Hilly-graves1700 BC Bronze Age
Neu Quitzenow Neu Quitzenow Rostock Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 2 Hilly-graves1800 - 600 BC
Grabhügel von Leubingen Leubingen Sömmerda Thuringen grave-hill1940 BC Unetice culture

Barrows or tumuli sites in Germany dating to the Late Bronze and Iron Age.

Pöckinger Gemeindegebiet (Pöcking local community area) Pöcking Munich area Bavaria grave-hill fieldc. 750 - 500 BC Hallstatt culture
Glauberg Glauburg Wetteraukreis Hesse Kings graves5th century BCEarly Celtic Age
Lahnberge Marburg Landkreis Marburg-Biedenkopf Hesse >200 Hilly gravesc. 1600 - 5th century BC Middle Bronze Age (Tumulus culture), Late Bronze Age (Urnfield culture), Iron Age (Hallstatt Culture)
Hohmichele Hundersingen Landkreis Sigmaringen Baden-Württemberg Kings gravesc. 600 - 450 BC Hallstatt culture
Grave-hill of Hochdorf Hochdorf an der Enz Landkreis Ludwigsburg Baden-Württemberg Hilly-grave5th century BC Hallstatt culture
Lehbühl Schlaitdorf Landkreis Esslingen Baden-Württemberg Hill-gravec. 600 - 400 BC Hallstatt culture
Daxberg Tumuli (Mömbris) Daxberg (Mömbris)  [ de ] Landkreis Aschaffenburg Bavaria Hilly-grave fieldc. 2000 - 800 BC Iron Age
Daxberg Tumuli (Erkheim) Daxberg (Erkheim)  [ de ] Landkreis Unterallgäu Bavaria Hilly-grave field8th century BC Iron Age
Neu Quitzenow Neu Quitzenow Rostock Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 2 Hilly-gravesc. 1800 - 600 BC
Royal grave of Seddin  [ de ] Seddin Landkreis Prignitz Brandenburg Kings graves8th century BC Bronze Age
Pestrup Grave fields  [ de ] Wildeshausen Landkreis Oldenburg Lower Saxony ~ 500 grave-hillsc. 900 - 200 BC Bronze Age
Magdalenenberg Villingen Schwarzwald-Baar-Kreis Baden-Württemberg Kings gravec. 616 BC Hallstatt culture
Wagon grave of Bell  [ de ] Bell (Hunsrück) Rhein-Hunsrück-Kreis Rhineland-Palatinate Wagon-grave500 BC Hallstatt culture
Schweinert Tumuli  [ de ] Falkenberg (in Schweinert Nature reserve) Landkreis Elbe-Elster Brandenburg 642-hill-graves fieldc. 1000 BC
Breitenfeld Neuhausen ob Eck Landkreis Tuttlingen Baden-Württemberg 21 grave-hillsc. 700 BC - 450 AD Hallstatt culture

Barrows or tumuli sites in Germany dating to the Stone Age.

Grave fields of Grabau  [ de ] Grabau (Stormarn) Kreis Stormarn Schleswig-Holstein 9 grave-hills6500 - 5500 BC Young Stone Age
Mansenberge Groß Berßen Landkreis Emsland Lower Saxony Great stone grave3600-2800 BC Megalith Culture

Other Barrows/tumuli in Germany of unstated date.

Beckdorf Beckdorf Landkreis Stade Lower Saxony Hilly-grave
Heidelberg Wiera Schwalm-Eder-Kreis Hesse Hill-grave Bronze Age
Mellingstedt Lemsahl-Mellingstedt Wandsbek Hamburg Hilly-grave Bronze Age
Höltinghausen Höltinghausen Landkreis Cloppenburg Lower Saxony Hilly-grave field
Plankenheide Nettetal Kreis Viersen North Rhine-Westphalia Hill-grave
Kranzberger Forst Kranzberg Landkreis Freising Bavaria 19 Hilly-graves Bronze Age
Maaschwitz Maaschwitz Muldentalkreis Saxony Hilly-graves
Plaggenschale Plaggenschale Landkreis Osnabrück Lower Saxony
Tumulus von Nennig Nennig Landkreis Merzig-Wadern Saarland Grave-hill Bronze Age
Winckelbarg Landkreis Stade Lower Saxony


A tumulus can be found close to the Grianán of Aileach in County Donegal. It has been suggested by historians such as George Petrie, who surveyed the site in the early 19th century, that the tumulus may predate the ringfort of Aileach by many centuries possibly to the neolithic age. Surrounding stones were laid horizontally, and converged towards the centre. the mound had been excavated in Petrie's time, but nothing explaining its meaning was discovered. It was subsequently destroyed, but its former position is marked by a heap of broken stones. Similar mounds can be found at The Hill of Tara and there are several prominent tumuli at Brú na Bóinne in County Meath.

Interior of the Tomba Margareth, Etruscan tumulus near Blera, Italy Tomba Margareth.jpg
Interior of the Tomba Margareth, Etruscan tumulus near Blera, Italy


Some large tumulus tombs can be found especially in the Etruscan culture. Smaller barrows are dated to the Villanova period (ninth-eighth centuries BC) but the biggest were used in the following centuries (from the seventh century afterwards) by the Etruscan aristocracy.

The Etruscan tumuli were normally family tombs that were used for many generation of the same noble family, and the deceased were buried with many precious objects that had to be the "grave goods" or the furnishings for these "houses" in the Afterlife. Many tombs also hold paintings, that in many cases represent the funeral or scenes of real life. The most important graveyards (necropolises) with tumulus tombs are Veio, Cerveteri, Vetulonia, Populonia. Many isolated big barrows can be found in the whole Etruscan territory (mostly in Central Italy).


Vorstengraf near Oss (Netherlands) from above Oss vorstengraf.jpg
Vorstengraf near Oss (Netherlands) from above
Dissemination of tumuli in the Netherlands; in red "regular" tumuli, in blue urn fields Verspreiding grafheuvels-urnenvelden Nederland.svg
Dissemination of tumuli in the Netherlands; in red "regular" tumuli, in blue urn fields

Burial mounds are the most numerous archaeological monuments in the Netherlands. In many places, these prehistoric graves are still clearly visible as low hills. The oldest tumuli (grafheuvels) in the Netherlands were built near Apeldoorn about 5,000 years ago. Concentrations of tumuli from the Bronze Age are located on the Veluwe and Drenthe.

Early scholarly investigation of tumuli and hunebedden and theorising as to their origins was undertaken from the 17th century by notably Johan Picardt. Although many have disappeared over the centuries, some 3000 tumuli are known of which 636 are protected as Rijksmonument. [35] The largest tumulus in the Netherlands is the grave of a king near Oss. Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Drents Museum, and Huis van Hilde have findings from tumuli in their collections.


Tumulus at Outeiro de Gregos, Baiao, Portugal (5th or 4th millennium BC) Dolmen Outeiro de Gregos3.jpg
Tumulus at Outeiro de Gregos, Baião, Portugal (5th or 4th millennium BC)

One of the densest manifestations of the megalithic phenomenon in Europe occurred in Portugal. In the north of the country there are more than 1000 late prehistoric barrows. They generally occur in clusters, forming a necropolis. The method of inhumation usually involves a dolmen. The tumuli, dated from c. 4450 to 1900 BC, are up to 3 metres high, with diameters from 6 to 30 metres. Most of them are mounds of earth and stones, but the more recent ones are composed largely or entirely of stones (cairns). In Portuguese, barrows are called mamoas, from the Latin mammulas, given to them by the Romans because of their shape, similar to the breast of a woman.


Burial mounds were in use from the Stone Age until the 11th century in Scandinavia and figure heavily in Norse paganism. In their original state they usually appear as small, man-made hillocks, though many examples have been damaged by ploughing or plundering so that little visible evidence remains.

The tumuli of Scandinavia is of a great variety of designs, depending on the cultural traditions of the era in which they were constructed. The tumuli tombs may contain single graves, collective graves and both inhumation and cremation was practiced, again depending on the era, but also on geography. Many tumuli in Scandinavia shows a continuation of use from Stone Age to Viking Age. In the Viking Age (and perhaps in earlier times as well) burning the deceased, was believed to transfer the person to Valhalla by the consuming force of fire. Archaeological finds testifies that the cremation fire could reach temperatures of up to 1500 °C. The remains were often covered with cobblestones and then a layer of gravel and sand and finally a thin layer of turf or placed in urns. The tumuli were used for ancestral worshipping, an important practice in Norse culture and many places shows continuation of use for millennia.

Thus he (Odin) established by law that all dead men should be burned, and their belongings laid with them on the pile, and the ashes be cast into the sea or buried in the earth. Thus, said he, every one will come to Valhalla with the riches he had with him upon the pile, and he would also enjoy whatever he himself buried in the earth. For men of consequence a mound should be raised to their memory, and for all other warriors distinguished for manhood, a standing stone. This custom remained long after Odin's time. [...] It was their faith that the higher the smoke arose in the air, the higher he would be raised whose pile it was, and the richer he would be, the more property that was consumed with him


King Bjorn's barrow in Haga, Sweden Hagahogen.jpg
King Björn's barrow in Håga, Sweden
  • Anundshög, located just outside the City of Västerås, is Sweden's largest burial mound.
  • Gamla Uppsala, The Royal mounds (Swedish: Kungshögarna) is the name for the three large barrows which are located in Gamla Uppsala. According to ancient mythology and folklore, it would be the three gods Thor, Odin and Freyr lying in Kungshögarna or Uppsala högar.
  • Gravhög Gårdstånga, situated in Eslöv Municipality, Skåne County, is the site of a Bronze Age burial mound, (Swedish: Gravhög).
  • Hågahögen, King Björn's barrow in Håga (Old Norse word: haugr) near Uppsala has a very strong connection with Björn at Haugi.
  • Kungshögar, an archaeological site on the Lake Mälaren island of Adelsö in Ekerö Municipality, contains five large burial mounds .
  • Skalunda hög in Västergötland, the site of Skalunda Barrow, an historic burial mound.


Jellhaugen, Norway's 2nd biggest tumulus. Photo: Tore Schroder Jellhaugen grave mound, Halden.jpg
Jellhaugen, Norway's 2nd biggest tumulus. Photo: Tore Schrøder


The tumulus Tinghojen located between Randers and Viborg, one of about 26,000 conserved tumuli in Denmark. Photo from January, 2010 Tinghoj Hammershoj Kvorning 2010-01-08 edit filtered.jpg
The tumulus Tinghøjen located between Randers and Viborg, one of about 26,000 conserved tumuli in Denmark. Photo from January, 2010

Denmark has about 20,000 preserved tumuli, with the oldest being around 5,000 years old. A great number of tumuli in Denmark has been destroyed in the course of history, ploughed down for agricultural fields or used for road or dyke constructions. Tumuli have been protected by law since 1937 and is officially supervised by the Danish Agency for Culture. [39] Examples of tumuli in Denmark are: [40] [41] [42]

South Asia


The Ahom kingdom in medieval Assam built octagonal tumuli called Maidams for their kings and high officials. The kings were buried in a hillock at Charaideo in Sibsagar district of Assam, whereas other Maidams are found scattered more widely.


The damb was a type of mound, or small stone structure, found in Balochistan, including the coastal areas of Makran.

Αegean and Near East


Some of the world's most prominent Tumuli, the Macedonian tombs and a cist-grave at Vergina include the tomb of Philip II (359–336 BC), father of Alexander the Great (336–323 BC), as well as the tomb of Alexander IV (323–309 BC), son of Alexander the Great. A very large tumulus has been discovered in Amphipolis. Known as the Kasta Tomb, the tomb's occupant is presently unknown. Also numerous Mycenaean Greek Tombs are in all essence Tumuli, notably Agamemnon's site in Mycenae, and other sites in Tiryns, near Olympia and Pylos, and mostly in the Peloponnese peninsula near Mycenaean sites and Bronze Age settlements. Moreover, in Central Greece there are numerous Tumuli, some excavated, others not. A notable one is in Marathon, serving as a burial for the ones who fell during battle.

As of October 2014 there are ongoing excavations at the Kasta Tomb in Amphipolis, Macedonia, Greece with the tumulus having a perimeter of 497 meters. The tomb within is assessed to be an ancient Macedonian burial monument of the last quarter of the 4th century BC.


The "Tomb of Midas" in Gordion, dated 740 BC. Gordion82.JPG
The "Tomb of Midas" in Gordion, dated 740 BC.

On the Anatolian peninsula, there are several sites where one can find the biggest specimens of these artificial mounds throughout the world. Three of these sites are especially important. Bin Tepeler (and other Lydian mounds of the Aegean inland), Phrygian mounds in Gordium (Central Anatolia), and the famous Commagene tumulus on the Mount Nemrut (Southeastern Anatolia).

This is the most important of the enumerated sites with the number of specimens it has and with the dimensions of certain among them. It is in the Aegean inland of Turkey. The site is called "Bin Tepeler" (a thousand mounds in Turkish) and it is in the northwest of Salihli district of Manisa province. The site is very close to the southern shoreline of Lake Marmara (Lake Gyges or Gygaea). Bin Tepeler is a Lydian necropolis that dates back to 7th and 6th centuries BC. These mounds are called, "the pyramids of Anatolia," as a giant specimen among them is 355 metres in diameter, 1115 metres in perimeter and 69 metres high. According to Herodotus, this giant tumulus belongs to the famous Lydian King Alyattes who ruled between 619–560 BC. There is also another mound belonging to King Gyges. The Gyges mound was excavated but the burial chamber hasn't been found yet. In this site, there are 75 tumuli dating back to Lydian period that belong to the nobility. A large number of smaller artificial mounds can also be observed in the site. There are other Lydian tumuli sites around Eşme district of Uşak province. Certain mounds in these sites had been plundered by raiders in the late 1960s, and the Lydian treasures found in their burial chambers were smuggled to the United States, which later returned them to Turkish authorities after negotiations. These artifacts are now exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Uşak.

Tumulus MM, Gordion, at sunset TumMMWPintro.jpg
Tumulus MM, Gordion, at sunset

Gordium (Gordion) was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Phrygia. Its ruins are in the immediate vicinity of Polatlı, near the Turkish capital Ankara. At this site, approximately 80-90 tumuli date back to the Phrygian, Persian and Hellenistic periods. Around 35 tumuli have been excavated so far, ranging in date from the 8th century BC to the 3rd or 2nd century BC. The biggest tumulus at the site is believed to have covered the burial of the famous Phrygian King Midas or that of his father. This mound, called Tumulus MM (for "Midas Mound"), was excavated in 1957 by a team from the University of Pennsylvania Museum, led by Rodney Young and his graduate students. Among the many fine bronze artifacts recovered from the wooden burial chamber were 170 bronze vessels, including numerous "omphalos bowls," and more than 180 bronze "Phrygian fibulae" (ancient safety pins). The wooden furniture found in the tomb is especially noteworthy, as wood seldom survives from archaeological contexts: the collection included nine tables, one of them elaborately carved and inlaid, and two ceremonial serving stands inlaid with religious symbols and geometric patterns. Important bronze and wooden artifacts were also found in other tumulus burials at the site.

The Mount Nemrut is 86 km in the east of Adıyaman province of Turkey. It is very close to Kahta district of the same province. The mountain has, at its peak, 3050 metres of height above the sea level. A tumulus that dates to the 1st century BC is at the peak of the mountain. This artificial mound has 150 metres of diameter and a height of 50 metres, which was originally 55 metres. It belongs to the Commagene King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene who ruled between 69–40 BC. This tumulus is made of broken stone pieces, which renders excavation attempts almost impossible. The tumulus is surrounded by ceremonial terraces in the east, west, and north. The east and west terraces have tremendous statues (reaching 8 to 10 meters of height) and bas reliefs of gods and goddesses from the Commagene pantheon where divine figures used to embody the Persian and Roman perceptions together.


Jerusalem tumulus #2 in 2004 JerusalemTumulus2.jpg
Jerusalem tumulus #2 in 2004

A tumulus forms the center of the ancient megalithic structure of Rujm el-Hiri in the Golan Heights. Rujm in Arabic can mean tumulus, cairn or stone heap. Near the western city limits of modern Jerusalem, 19 tumuli have been documented (Amiran, 1958). Though first noticed in the 1870s by early surveyors, the first one to be formally documented was Tumulus #2 in 1923 by William Foxwell Albright, and the most recent one (Tumulus #4) was excavated by Gabriel Barkay in 1983. The association of these tumuli with the Judean kings who ruled Jerusalem does not substantiate Biblical history since it is mere speculation. No inscriptions naming any specific Judean king have been excavated from a tumulus.

  • More than half of these ancient Israeli structures have now been threatened or obliterated by modern construction projects, including Tumulus #4, which was excavated hastily in a salvage operation. The most noteworthy finds from this dig were two LMLK seal impressions and two other handles with associated Concentric Circle incisions, all of which suggests this tumulus belonged to either King Hezekiah (Barkay, 2003, p. 68) or his son Manasseh (Grena, 2004, p. 326).
  • When comparing the number of these tumuli to the total number of Israelite kings (northern and southern), note that Saul never ruled in Jerusalem, and Athaliah was never crowned. She took the throne by force (2Kings 11:1-3), and would certainly not have been honored with a tumulus ceremony following her brutal assassination.
  • The northern kings did not reign over the southern kingdom, and they would certainly not have been honored with a tumulus ceremony in Jerusalem; if any ceremonies were held for them, they would have transpired in the north (near Bethel, Tirzah, or Samaria).

East Asia


The Chinese pyramids house the remains of some of China's former emperors.

Before the expansion of Shang and Zhou culture through the region, many hundreds of tumuli were also constructed by the "Baiyue" peoples of the Yangtze valley and southeastern China.


Daisen Kofun, the largest of all kofun NintokuTomb.jpg
Daisen Kofun, the largest of all kofun
Hashihaka Kofun, Sakurai, Nara, 3rd century Hashihaka-kofun zenkei.JPG
Hashihaka Kofun, Sakurai, Nara, 3rd century

In Japan, powerful leaders built tumuli known as kofun . The Kofun period of Japanese history takes its name from these burial mounds. [43] The largest is Daisen-ryo Kofun, or more commonly Nintoku-ryo Kofun, with a length of 840 metres. In addition to other shapes, kofun include a keyhole shape, typically seen in Daisen Kofun. Foreign museums possesses some grave goods.


Burial mounds of the Silla kings in Korea Burial-Mounds-at-GyeongJu.jpg
Burial mounds of the Silla kings in Korea

see also Cheonmachong , the Heavenly Horse Tomb

The first burial mounds in Korea were dolmens, which contained material from cultures of the 1st millennium AD, such as bronze-ware, pottery, and other symbols of society elite. The most famous tumulii in Korea, dating around 300 AD, are those left behind by the Korean Baekje, Goguryeo(Kogyuro/Koguryo), Silla, and Gaya states and are clustered around ancient capital cities in modern-day Pyongyang, Ji'an, Jilin, Seoul, and Gyeongju. The Goguryeo tombs, shaped like pyramids, are famous for the well-preserved wall murals like the ones at Anak Tomb No.3, which depict the culture and artistry of the people. The base of the tomb of King Gwanggaeto is 85 meters on each side, half of the size of the Great Pyramids. [44] Goguryeo Silla tombs are most noted for the fabulous offerings that have been excavated such as delicate golden crowns and glassware and beads that probably made their way to Korea via the Silk Road. Many indigenous Korean artifacts and culture were transmitted to the tomb builders of early Japan, such as horsetrappings, bronze mirrors, paintings and iron-ware.

North America


Serpent Mounds Park, located near Peterborough, Ontario, was named because of the zig-zag serpent shapes of its mounds. Serpent Mounds NHS.jpg
Serpent Mounds Park, located near Peterborough, Ontario, was named because of the zig-zag serpent shapes of its mounds.

Human settlement in L'anse Amour dates back at least 7,500 years as evidenced by the burial mound of a Maritime Archaic boy. His body was wrapped in a shroud of bark or hide and placed face down with his head pointed to the west. The site was first excavated in the 1970s.

The Augustine Mound is an important Mi'kmaq burial site in New Brunswick.

Taber Hill is a Haudenosaunee burial mound in Toronto, Ontario.

In the southern regions of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, evidence of ancient mound builders was discovered by archaeologists, beginning with excavations by Henry Youle Hind in 1857. [45] [46] [47]

In Southwestern British Columbia, several types of burial mounds are known from the Salishan region (Hill-Tout 1895).

United States

Grave Creek Mound, located in Moundsville, West Virginia, was built by the Adena culture Grave Creek Mound.jpg
Grave Creek Mound, located in Moundsville, West Virginia, was built by the Adena culture

Mound building was a central feature of the public architecture of many Native American and Mesoamerican cultures from Chile to Minnesota. Thousands of mounds in the United States have been destroyed as a result of farming, pot-hunting, amateur and professional archaeology, road-building and construction. Surviving mounds are still found in river valleys, especially along the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio Rivers, and as far west as Spiro Mounds in Oklahoma. [48]

Mounds were used for burial, to support residential and religious structures, to represent a shared cosmology, and to unite and demarcate community. Common forms include conical mounds, ridge-top mounds, platform mounds, and animal effigy mounds, but there are many variations. Mound building in the USA is believed to date back to at least 3400 BC in the Southeast (see Watson Brake). The Adena and the Mississippian cultures are principally known for their mounds, as is the Hopewell tradition. The largest mound site north of Mexico is Cahokia Mounds, a vast World Heritage Site located just east of St. Louis, Missouri.

See also

Related Research Articles

Tomb burial place

A tomb is a repository for the remains of the dead. It is generally any structurally enclosed interment space or burial chamber, of varying sizes. Placing a corpse into a tomb can be called immurement, and is a method of final disposition, as an alternative to for example cremation or burial.

Kurgan Tumulus in Eastern Europe

A kurgan is a tumulus, a type of burial mound or barrow, heaped over a burial chamber, often of wood. The Russian noun, already attested in Old East Slavic, comes from an unidentified Turkic language, compare Modern Turkish kurğan, which means "fortress". Kurgans are mounds of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Popularised by its use in Soviet archaeology, the word is now widely used for tumuli in the context of Eastern European and Central Asian archaeology.

Megalith Large stone used to build a structure or monument

A megalith is a large stone that has been used to construct a structure or monument, either alone or together with other stones. The word megalithic describes structures made of such large stones without the use of mortar or concrete, representing periods of prehistory characterised by such constructions. For later periods, the word monolith, with an overlapping meaning, is more likely to be used.

Gallery grave Form of megalithic tomb

A gallery grave is a form of megalithic tomb built primarily during the Neolithic Age in Europe in which the main gallery of the tomb is entered without first passing through an antechamber or hallway. There are at least four major types of gallery grave, and they may be covered with an earthen mound or rock mound.

An oval barrow is the name given by archaeologists to a type of prehistoric burial tumulus of roughly oval shape.

Round barrow Hemispherical mound of earth and/or stone raised over a burial placed in the middle

A round barrow is a type of tumulus and is one of the most common types of archaeological monuments. Although concentrated in Europe, they are found in many parts of the world, probably because of their simple construction and universal purpose.

Julliberries Grave Barrow in England

Julliberrie's Grave, also known as The Giant's Grave or The Grave, is an unchambered long barrow located near to the village of Chilham in the south-eastern English county of Kent. Probably constructed in the fourth millennium BCE, during Britain's Early Neolithic period, today it survives only in a state of ruin.

<i>Kofun</i> type of megalithic tomb or tumulus in Japan

Kofun are megalithic tombs or tumuli in Japan, constructed between the early 3rd century and the early 7th century AD. The term Kofun is the origin of the name of the Kofun period, which indicates the middle 3rd century to early-middle 6th century. Many Kofun have distinctive keyhole-shaped mounds, which are unique to ancient Japan. The Mozu-Furuichi kofungun or tumulus clusters have been proposed for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List, while Ishibutai Kofun is one of a number in Asuka-Fujiwara similarly residing on the Tentative List.

Round Loaf Late-Neolithic or Bronze Age tumulus on Anglezarke Moor, England

Round Loaf is a late-Neolithic or Bronze Age tumulus on Anglezarke Moor in the West Pennine Moors near Chorley in Lancashire, England. The bowl barrow is a scheduled monument considered to be of national importance. It was first scheduled in March 1954. The structure is aligned between Great Hill and Pikestones.

Stoney Littleton Long Barrow Neolithic chambered tomb in England

The Stoney Littleton Long Barrow is a Neolithic chambered tomb with multiple burial chambers, located near the village of Wellow in the English county of Somerset. It is an example of the Cotswold-Severn Group and was scheduled as an ancient monument in 1882. It was one of the initial monuments included when the Ancient Monuments Protection Act 1882 became law.

Earthworks (archaeology) General term to describe artificial changes in land level

In archaeology, earthworks are artificial changes in land level, typically made from piles of artificially placed or sculpted rocks and soil. Earthworks can themselves be archaeological features, or they can show features beneath the surface.

Burgstallkogel (Sulm valley) Hill in Austria

The Burgstallkogel is a hill situated near the confluence of the Sulm and the Saggau river valleys in Southern Styria in Austria, about 30 km south of Graz between Gleinstätten and Kleinklein. The hill hosted a significant settlement of trans-regional importance from 800 BC to about 600 BC. Surrounding the hill is one of the largest iron age necropolises in continental Europe, originally composed of at least 2,000 tumuli.

Tumulus of Bougon Tumulus in Bougon, France

The Tumulus of Bougon or Necropolis of Bougon is a group of five Neolithic barrows located in Bougon near La-Mothe-Saint-Héray, between Exoudon and Pamproux in Nouvelle-Aquitaine, France. Their discovery in 1840 raised great scientific interest. To protect the monuments, the site was acquired by the department of Deux-Sèvres in 1873. Excavations resumed in the late 1960s. The oldest structures of this prehistoric monument date to 4800 BC.

St Lythans burial chamber Megalithic dolmen in Wales

The St Lythans burial chamber is a single stone megalithic dolmen, built around 6,000 BP as part of a chambered long barrow, during the mid Neolithic period, in what is now known as the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales.

Megaliths in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern

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).

Nordic megalith architecture dolmen

Nordic megalith architecture is an ancient architectural style found in Northern Europe, especially Scandinavia and North Germany, that involves large slabs of stone arranged to form a structure. It emerged in northern Europe, predominantly between 3500 and 2800 BC. It was primarily a product of the Funnelbeaker culture. Amongst its researchers, Ewald Schuldt in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania excavated over 100 sites of different types - simple dolmens, extended dolmens – also called rectangular dolmens – passage graves, great dolmens, unchambered long barrows and stone cists - between 1964 and 1974. In addition, there are polygonal dolmens and types that emerged later, for example, the Grabkiste and Röse. This nomenclature, which specifically derives from the German, is not used in Scandinavia where these sites are categorised by other, more general, terms, as dolmens, passage graves and stone cists . Neolithic monuments are a feature of the culture and ideology of Neolithic communities. Their appearance and function serves as an indicator of their social development.

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.

Part of series of articles upon Archaeology of Kosovo

Necropolis of Soderstorf

The Necropolis of Soderstorf is a prehistoric cemetery in the valley of the Luhe river valley near Soderstorf in the Lüneburg district of Lower Saxony, Germany. The site was used for more than 2000 years. It includes a megalithic tomb, a tumulus tomb, a stone circle, paving stones, funerary urns and a flat grave.

The Pigi Athinas is an archaeological site at the eastern foot of Mount Olympus, near the village of Platamonas.


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