dolmen n : a prehistoric megalith typically having two upright stones and a capstone [syn: cromlech]
EtymologyPerhaps incorrectly fabricated from Breton taol maen: taol + maen. See also menhir.
- Dutch: hunebed
- French: dolmen
- German: Hünenbett, Hünengrab, Hünenstein
- Japanese: 支石墓
- Korean: 고인돌 (goindol)
A dolmen (also known as cromlech, anta, Hünengrab, Hunebed, quoit, and portal dolmen) is a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of three or more upright stones supporting a large flat horizontal capstone (table). Most date from the early Neolithic period (4000 to 3000 BC). Dolmens were usually covered with earth or smaller stones to form a barrow, though in many cases that covering has weathered away, leaving only the stone "skeleton" of the burial mound intact.
Etymology"Dolmen" originates from the expression taol maen, which means "stone table" in Breton, and was first used archaeologically by Théophile Corret de la Tour d'Auvergne. The etymology of the German Hünenbett or Hünengrab and Dutch Hunebed (lit. Huns' bed) all evoke the image of giants building the structures. Of other Celtic languages, "cromlech" derives from Welsh and "quoit" is commonly used in Cornwall. Anta is the term used in Portugal, and dös in Sweden.
EuropeMegalithic tombs are found from the Baltic Sea and North Sea coasts south to Spain and Portugal. Hunebedden are chamber tombs similar to dolmens and date to the middle Neolithic (Funnelbeaker culture, 4th millennium BC). They consist of a kerb surrounding an oval mound which covered a rectangular chamber of stones with the entrance on one of the long sides. Some have a more complex layout and include an entrance passage giving them a T-shape. It has been suggested that this means they are related to the passage graves found in Denmark and elsewhere.
Dolmen sites fringe the Irish Sea and are found in south-east Ireland, Wales, and Cornwall. In Ireland, however, dolmens are more to be found on the west coast, particularly in the Burren and Connemara, where some of the more well-known examples, such as Poulnabrone dolmen, are to be found. Examples have also been found in northern Ireland where they may have co-existed with the court cairn tombs. It is thought that the dolmens themselves evolved from a simpler cist burial method.
A great many examples can also be found on the Channel Island of Jersey, such as La Pouquelaye de Faldouet, La Hougue des Géonnais and La Sergeanté. The most famous of these sites is La Hougue Bie a 6,000 year old neolithic site that sits inside a large mound; later a chapel was built on the top of the mound.
Amongst the vast Neolithic collections of the Carnac stones in Brittany, France, several dozen dolmens are found. And all around the country, several dolmens still stand, such as the ones of Passebonneau and des Gorces near Saint-Benoît-du-Sault.
In Spain dolmens can be found in Galicia (such as Axeitos, pictured below), Catalonia (like Romanyà de la Selva or Creu d'en Cobertella) and Andalusia (like the Cueva de Menga).
Dolmens can be found all over Portugal, from simple ones http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Dolmen#Portugal to the more complex examples of megalithic architecture, such as the Almendres Cromlech or the Anta Grande do Zambujeiro.
In Mecklenburg and Pomerania (Germany) and Drenthe (The Netherlands), large numbers of these graves were disturbed when harbours, towns, and cities were built. The boulders were used in construction and road building. There are still many thousands left today in Europe.
In Bulgaria there are many dolmens, and more are being recorded by archaeologists.
The largest dolmen in Europe is the Brownshill Dolmen in County Carlow, Ireland. Its capstone weighs about 150 tonnes.
AsiaSimilar tombs can be found all over the world. Korea has many of the Asian dolmens, dating from the 1st millennium BC. The dolmen in Ganghwa is a northern-type, table-shaped dolmen where ancestral rites were held. It is the biggest stone of this kind in South Korea, measuring 2.6 by 7.1 by 5.5 metres. The number of dolmens in North and South Korea, approximately 30,000, is about 40% of the total number of dolmens in the world. There are also dolmens in Kerala, India, about 7 km from Marayoor, Kerala, near the small village of Pious Nagar, also known as Alinchuvad. These dolmens are set in clusters of two to five dolmens obviously for the burial of a family. There are hundreds of such dolmen clusters in the area. Apart from overground dolmens, underground burial chambers built with dressed stone slabs have also been discovered in Marayoor. All these dolmens are made from heavy granite slabs, mined using primitive technology. This was a burial ground for several centuries for a noble tribal dynasty known as Adi Cheras.
Eurasiaseealso Dolmens of Russia Over 3000 dolmens and other structures can be found in the North-Western Caucasus region of Russia, where more and more dolmens are discovered in the mountains each year.
- Trifonov, V., 2006. Russia's megaliths: unearthing the lost prehistoric tombs of Caucasian warlords in the Zhane valley. St.Petersburg: The Institute for Study of Material Culture History, Russian Academy of Sciences. Available from http://www.archeo.ru/eng/themes/dolmens/
- Kudin, M., 2001. Dolmeni i ritual. Dolmen Path - Russian Megaliths. Available from http://megalith.ru/articles/
- Knight, Peter. Ancient Stones of Dorset, 1996.
- Dolmens of Dorset
- Some monuments with QTVR panoramic views in Archeologia Sarda
- Dolmens, Menhirs & Stones-Circles in the South of France in French and English
- Pictures of Hunebedden in the Netherlands
- Poulnabrone Dolmen in the Burren, County Clare, Ireland
- on UNESCO's World Heritage List.
- Dolmen Pictures by Robert Triest.
- Russian Megaliths
- Jersey Heritage Trust
- Legananny Dolmen, Ireland
- World heritage site of dolmen in Korea
dolmen in Asturian: Dolmen
dolmen in Bulgarian: Долмен
dolmen in Catalan: Dolmen
dolmen in Czech: Dolmen
dolmen in Danish: Dysse
dolmen in German: Hünengrab
dolmen in Estonian: Dolmen
dolmen in Spanish: Dolmen
dolmen in Esperanto: Dolmeno
dolmen in Basque: Trikuharri
dolmen in French: Dolmen
dolmen in Scottish Gaelic: Cromleac
dolmen in Galician: Dolmen
dolmen in Georgian: დოლმენი
dolmen in Korean: 고인돌
dolmen in Italian: Dolmen
dolmen in Hebrew: דולמן
dolmen in Lithuanian: Dolmenas
dolmen in Latvian: Dolmens
dolmen in Dutch: Hunebed
dolmen in Dutch Low Saxon: Hunebed
dolmen in Japanese: 支石墓
dolmen in Norwegian: Dysse
dolmen in Narom: Pouquelaye
dolmen in Polish: Dolmen
dolmen in Portuguese: Dólmen
dolmen in Russian: Дольмен
dolmen in Slovak: Dolmen
dolmen in Serbian: Долмен
dolmen in Finnish: Dolmen
dolmen in Swedish: Dös
dolmen in Tamil: கல்திட்டை
dolmen in Turkish: Dolmen
dolmen in Ukrainian: Дольмен
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