Chamber tomb

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.

Most chamber tombs were constructed from large stones or megaliths and covered by cairns, barrows or earth. Some chamber tombs are rock-cut monuments or wooden-chambered tombs covered with earth barrows. Grave goods are a common characteristic of chamber tomb burials.

In Neolithic and Bronze Age Europe, stone-built examples of these burials are known by the generic term of megalithic tombs. Chamber tombs are often distinguished by the layout of their chambers and entrances or the shape and material of the structure that covered them, either an earth barrow or stone cairn. A wide variety of local types has been identified, and some designs appear to have influenced others.

WV23 by Mutnedjmet
Burial chamber of pharaoh Ay. (WV23)

Types and examples

General terms:

See also


  • Piccolo, Salvatore (2013). Ancient Stones: The Prehistoric Dolmens of Sicily. Thornham/UK: Brazen Head. ISBN 978-0-9565106-2-4.

Avielochan (Scottish Gaelic: Aghaidh an Lochain) is a hamlet in the historical county of Inverness-shire, within the Highland council area of Scotland. It is located north of Aviemore, on the A9 road. The area is noted for its prehistoric cairn.

British megalith architecture

British megalith architecture is the study of those ancient cultures that built megalithic sites on the British Isles, including the research and documentation of these sites. The classification sometimes used of these cultures based on geological criteria is problematic.

The neolithic sites of Britain are amongst the most varied in the prehistory of Europe. Although (geologically) different from "megalithic" sites, the earthen long barrows in East England are grouped with them from a cultural historical perspective. The Medway tombs and the Derbyshire chamber tombs (Five Wells) occupy a special position as examples of megalithic sites in East England. The north-south boundary between earthen sites and stone sites in England and Scotland is crossed at three points to the east by the seven different types of megalith site types (in the so-called mixed regions).

The activities of megalithic cultures in the region dates back to prehistoric times. There are many parallels between the prehistoric architecture of Ireland and the now British regions of Cornwall (including the Isles of Scilly), the Isle of Man, Wales and Scotland; but there are somewhat greater differences between those and the sites in England and, particularly, the Channel Islands. Although almost all regions have endemic megalith types, but they also usually have unique examples (e.g. the chamber tomb of Glyn) as well as forms that they share with one or two neighbouring regions.

Exemplary in this respect are the "cruciform passage" sites of the Maes Howe type on Orkney (in Ireland e.g. Knowth and Newgrange), whose distribution extends as far as the Scilly Isles and Devonshire in England. In addition to the great wealth of variety in Scotland, favoured by its geography, there are also sites on the Scottish islands with individual characteristics.

Neolithic monuments are an expression of the culture and ideology of Neolithic societies. Their origin and function are considered characteristic of social development.

Bro Garmon

Bro Garmon is a community in Conwy County Borough, in Wales. It is located on the eastern side of the Conwy Valley, stretching from north east of Llanrwst to just west of Pentrefoelas, and includes the villages of Capel Garmon, Glan Conwy, Melin-y-Coed, Nebo, Oaklands and Pentre-tafarn-y-fedw. Moel Seisiog, on the eastern boundary, rises to a height of 1,535 feet (468 m). The main settlement, Capel Garmon, lies 2.4 miles (3.9 km) east of Betws-y-Coed, 5.2 miles (8.4 km) north west of Pentrefoelas, 4.4 miles (7.1 km) south of Llanrwst and 15.7 miles (25.3 km) south of Conwy. At the 2001 census the community had a population of 648, increasing slightly at the 2011 census to 652.Saint Garmon's church, in Capel Garmon, was consecrated in 1862, but is no longer in use. An Iron Age firedog, discovered buried in a nearby field in 1852, and now held at the National Museum of Wales, is considered to have been produced by a master craftsman. It depicts two mythical creatures, part horse and part bull, and is rated as one of the most important examples of decorative ironwork found in the United Kingdom. To the south of the village, a Neolithic chamber tomb has been dated to 5,500 years ago. Nearby, Melin Plas-yn-Rhos is a water-powered corn mill thought to date from the 18th century.Waterloo Bridge, which carries the A5 across the River Conwy to Betws-y-Coed, was built by Thomas Telford in 1815, the year of the Battle of Waterloo, and is made wholly from cast iron. It is Grade I listed, and Cyffdy Hall, at Melin-y-coed, and Cilcennus at Oaklands are Grade II* listed. Numerous houses, farm buildings and several bridges in the community are Grade II listed.

The community is part of the Uwch Conwy ward for elections to Conwy County Borough Council.

Clava cairn

The Clava cairn is a type of Bronze Age circular chamber tomb cairn, named after the group of three cairns at Balnuaran of Clava, to the east of Inverness in Scotland. There are about 50 cairns of this type in an area round about Inverness. They fall into two sub-types, one typically consisting of a corbelled passage grave with a single burial chamber linked to the entrance by a short passage and covered with a cairn of stones, with the entrances oriented south west towards midwinter sunset. In the other sub-type an annular ring cairn encloses an apparently unroofed area with no formal means of access from the outside. In both sub-types a stone circle surrounds the whole tomb and a kerb often runs around the cairn. The heights of the standing stones vary in height so that the tallest fringe the entrance (oriented south west) and the shortest are directly opposite it.

Where Clava-type tombs have still contained burial remains, only one or two bodies appear to have been buried in each, and the lack of access to the second sub-type suggests that there was no intention of re-visiting the dead or communally adding future burials as had been the case with Neolithic cairn tombs.

Court cairn

The court cairn or tomb is a megalithic type of chamber tomb and gallery grave, specifically a variant of the chambered cairn, found in western and northern Ireland, and in mostly southwest Scotland (where it may also be called a horned cairn or Clyde-Carlingford tomb), around 4000–3500 BCE, but many remained in use until as late as the Bronze Age transition, c. 2200 BCE. They are generally considered to be the earliest chambered cairn tombs in Scotland, and their construction technique was probably brought from Scotland to Ireland.

In Scotland, they are most common in what today are Argyll and Dumfries and Galloway (where they form the Clyde-Carlingford group), though a small outlying group have been found near Perth.

Grinding slab

In archaeology, a grinding slab is a ground stone artifact generally used to grind plant materials into usable size, though some slabs were used to shape other ground stone artifacts. Some grinding stones are portable; others are not and, in fact, may be part of a stone outcropping.

Grinding slabs used for plant processing typically acted as a coarse surface against which plant materials were ground using a portable hand stone, or mano ("hand" in Spanish). Variant grinding slabs are referred to as metates or querns, and have a ground-out bowl. Like all ground stone artifacts, grinding slabs are made of large-grained materials such as granite, basalt, or similar tool stones.


Hofterup is a locality situated in Kävlinge Municipality, Skåne County, Sweden with 3,501 inhabitants in 2010.The etymology of the name suggests it may originally have meant "the settlement of Horte", Horte being and old Scandinavian male name.Among historical landmarks can be noted Hofterupsdösen, a stone chamber tomb from the Neolithic (stone age), and the well-preserved medieval Hofterup Church. Järavallen Nature Reserve, one of Skåne's largest public recreation areas, is in Hofterup. In Hofterup lies also Barsebäck Golf & Country Club - regarded as one of the top golf courses in Europe. The 2003 Solheim Cup was hosted here, as well as several Scandinavian Masters tournaments.


A hypogeum or hypogaeum (plural hypogea or hypogaea, which is commonly seen ; literally meaning "underground", from Greek hypo (under) and gaia (mother earth or goddess of earth)) is an underground temple or tomb.

The later Christians built similar underground shrines, crypts and tombs, which they called catacombs. But this was only a difference in name, rather than purpose and rituals, and archeological and historical research shows they were effectively the same. Werner Jacobsen wrote,

Like other ambitious Romans, the bishop-saints of the third and fourth centuries were usually buried in hypogea in the cemeteries outside the walls of their cities; often it was only miracles at their tombs that caused their successors to adopt more up-to-date designs. In Dijon the saint and bishop Benignus (d. c. 274) was buried in a large sarcophagus in a chamber tomb in the Roman cemetery. By the sixth century the tomb had long since fallen into disrepair and was regarded as pagan, even by Bishop Gregory of Langres."

Hypogea will often contain niches for cremated human remains or loculi for buried remains. Occasionally tombs of this type are referred to as built tombs.Hypogeum can also refer to any antique building or part of building built below ground such as the series of tunnels under the Colosseum which held slaves (particularly enemy captives) and animals while keeping them ready to fight in the gladiatorial games. The animals and slaves could be let up through trapdoors under the sand-covered arena at any time during a fight.

Mammen (village)

Mammen is a village in Viborg Municipality, Denmark 7 km north of Bjerringbro.

Mammen is recognized as the production site of Mammen cheese, a well known brand in Denmark.

Megalithic architectural elements

This article describes several characteristic architectural elements typical of European megalithic (Stone Age) structures.

Mycenaean chamber tomb

The Mycenaean chamber tomb is the type of chamber tomb that was built by ancient Mycenaeans. This form of mortuary architecture was in use in the Late Bronze Age in the areas under the cultural influence of the Aegean.

The tombs are cut from rock and have a tripartite structure (chamber, stomion and dromos), often with additional niches and side chambers in which primary or secondary burials took place. Extensive cemeteries have been found in every part of Greece having Mycenaean influences, including the islands. Such tombs were also built in parts of ancient Anatolia. For about 500 years from 1600 BC to 1100 BC they were the most widespread of mortuary structures.


A naveta is a form of megalithic chamber tomb unique to the Balearic island of Menorca. They date to the early Bronze Age.

They have two vertical and two corbelled walls giving them the form of an upturned boat, from which the navetas take their name.

The largest example is the Naveta d'Es Tudons which is around 4m high, 14m long and 6.4m wide.

The first author who wrote about this structures was Joan Ramis in his book Celtic antiques on the island of Menorca, which was edited 1818, being the first book in Spanish language entirely devoted to Prehistory"

Roman mausoleum of Córdoba

The Roman mausoleum of Córdoba is an ancient structure in the Jardines de la Victoria, Córdoba, Andalusia, southern Spain. It is a funerary monument of cylinder-shaped that corresponded to a group of funerary monuments of the Republican era, built in the 1st century AD. It was discovered in 1993 during archaeological excavations.

It includes the chamber tomb that housed the Urn, as well as remains of the basement, cornices, and crenellated parapet. Unusual for such structures in Roman Iberia, it may have been designed by an Italian architect, due to similarities to other mausoleums in Rome and the rest of Italy. Its size also suggests that it belonged to a wealthy family.

The mausoleum is located near the road that connected the ancient city with Hispalis (now Seville), and exited from the city by the western gate, or "Porta Principalis Sinistra" (Puerta de Gallegos). The archaeological site also includes remains of the pavement of the latter.

Shaft and chamber tomb

A shaft and chamber tomb is a type of chamber tomb used by some ancient peoples for burial of the dead. They consist of a shaft dug into the outcrops of rock with a square or round chamber excavated at the bottom where the dead were placed. These chambers can consist of a single shaft and chamber like the Mexican tombs or sometimes quite elaborate as was built in ancient Egypt.

Shaft and chamber tombs are found at Xemxija in Malta which are Neolithic and Dayeh-va-dokhtar tombs in Fars province of Iran. They were also employed by the ancient Egyptians. The late pre-Classic and early Classic Era cultures of west Mexico (what are now the states of Colima, Nayarit, and Jalisco) used tombs of this kind and much of what little is known about these cultures is known from art objects found in these tombs. As a result, these early West Mexico cultures are sometimes referred to as the West Mexico shaft tomb culture.

Sorkh Deh chamber tomb

Sorkh Deh chamber tomb is a Shaft and chamber tomb type grave located in Kermanshah Province in Iran. Sorkh Deh in Persian means Red Village. The grave probably dates back 2500 years. Sorkh Deh chamber tomb is located 19 kilometers from another series of historically important chamber tombs of Es-hagh Vand, between Shams Abad and Sorkh Deh villages at the left bank of Gamasiab river.

Tomb of Two Brothers

The Tomb of Two Brothers is an ancient sepulchre in Deir Rifeh, Egypt. It contains the chamber tomb of the ancient Egyptian high status priests Nakht-Ankh and Khnum-Nakht, which dates from the 12th dynasty.

Townleyhall passage grave

Townleyhall passage grave is a chamber tomb located around 2 km north of Dowth tomb. It is part of the megalithic complex of Brú na Bóinne in County Louth, Ireland.

It is located outside the World Heritage Site core area but (just) inside the buffer zone.

The site was originally a Neolithic settlement but was abandoned by its occupants, perhaps because it was a temporary site serving the construction project or due to the death of a senior member, and turned into a passage grave. Unlike its more famous neighbours in the Boyne valley, the tomb consists of a single chamber that merges with the entrance passage making it an undifferentiated passage grave.

Townleyhall was excavated by George Eogan in 1962, work which found Carrowkeel ware pottery providing the first indication that Ireland's passage graves were of Neolithic date. Following this many of the other sites in the area were dug, although the methods used at the time would be considered crude by today's standards .


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.

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.

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.

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 tumor, thumb, thigh, and thousand.

Wayland's Smithy

Wayland's Smithy is a Neolithic long barrow and chamber tomb site located near the Uffington White Horse and Uffington Castle, at Ashbury in the English county of Oxfordshire. It is very near to The Ridgeway, an ancient road running along the Berkshire Downs.

Archaeologists have established that the monument was built by pastoralist communities shortly after the introduction of agriculture to Britain from continental Europe. Although representing part of an architectural tradition of long barrow building that was widespread across Neolithic Europe, Wayland's Smithy belongs to a localised regional variant of barrows produced in the south-west of Britain, now known as the Severn-Cotswold group. Of these, it is in one of the best surviving conditions.

The later mound was 185 feet (56 m) long and 43 feet (13 m) wide at the south end. Its present appearance is the result of restoration following excavations undertaken by Stuart Piggott and Richard Atkinson in 1962–63. They demonstrated that the site had been built in two different phases, a timber-chambered oval barrow built around 3590 and 3550 BC and a later stone-chambered long barrow in around 3460 to 3400 BC.

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