Simple dolmen

The simple dolmen (German: Urdolmen, literally "ancient dolmen") or primeval dolmen[1] 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 (Lejeby Laholm).

Neolithic monuments are an expression of the culture and ideology of neolithic communities. Their emergence and function serve as indicators of social development.[2]

The development of the block cist (above left) into the simple dolmen with passage (below right)
Parallel and transversely-oriented dolmens
Simple dolmen in the Dammerstorf Forest (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern)
Urdolmen Nordgruppe
Simple dolmen near Grevesmühlen

Distinction between simple dolmens and stone cists

In many cases there is no clear distinction between simple dolmens and stone cists.[3][4] In the necropolis of Brüssow-Wollschow, in the Uckermark region, simple dolmens and stone cists occur together. The differences consist in the degree to which they are embedded and in the material used for the sidestones (orthostats). In simple dolmens the sidestones consist of rubble, in stone cists of slabs. Whether this was of relevance for neolithic people, remains questionable, because there are also combinations of both materials.


Monte Bubbonia dolmen, Sicily

The smallest simple dolmens occur on the Danish island of Zealand, where the ratio of length-to-breadth of the southern half of the island (Dolmen of Jyderup) (1.7 x 0.6 m) is even less in the north. This small size led researchers such as Hans-Jürgen Beier, to refuse to give simple dolmens the status of a megalithic site. Whether, however, the equally very small megalithic tombs fulfil his conditions, is still open to question. Also in Sicily, in recent years, are being found small dolmen monuments, because around the end of the 3rd millennium BC, the west coast of the Mediterranean island was caught up in a cultural wave (bringing the bell-shaped goblet) coming the Sardinian coast, which in turn had imported from the peninsula Iberica.[5]

The Cava dei Servi dolmen (Ragusa-Sicily)
Cava dei Servi dolmen, Sicily

You can follow the evolution of simple dolmens, which for the early builders was a learning process, and how, step by step, they met the demands placed on them at the time by producing ever more mature (and larger) solutions. This also applies to the development of simple dolmens into extended dolmens (also called rectangular dolmens), to its round variant, the polygonal dolmen, and to the great dolmens.

Block cists

The prototype of the simple dolmen is the so-called block cist, enclosed on all sides and dug into the ground. It has no entrance and is, once closed, difficult for the technically less skilled user to open and re-utilise. It was therefore only intended for a one-time use.

On the island of Sylt in Schleswig-Holstein, two simple dolmens were found in a common enclosure (Hünenbett). But there is usually only one simple dolmen within an enclosure, lying parallel to the longitudinal axis, the so-called parallel type (Parallellieger). In Ulstrup near Gundeslevholm two of the three simple dolmens form a pair next to one another in the enclosure. The block cist in the Tykskov of Varnæs near Aabenraa and the one in the Nørreskov on Alsen lie diagonally within the enclosure. North of the River Eider about 20% of the simple dolmens are covered by a circular mound.


Initial progress - in terms of multiple use - was achieved by the creation of an entrance. In examples that were still dug into the ground the entrance was (in Denmark and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania) initially made through the roof - as, for example, at Barkvieren. By dividing the ceiling into a large stone and a stone that could be lifted by hand, access from above was enabled. This variant, however, is not very widespread.

Breakdown of the 18 simple dolmens researched by Schuldt

This development path was abandoned in favour of options using other axes of entry. The simple dolmen was now buried less deeply and the upper half of one of the ends was used as access. This form can be found e.g. in the stone enclosures of Grundoldendorf. The weight of the single stone was still divided amongst three orthostats. This process shows the discovery of the stability of a three-point support system.

The always parallel-sided open simple dolmens are 2.2 to 2.6 metres long and 1.0 to 1.8 metres wide and slightly larger than the closed examples. For Schleswig-Holstein, the small chamber at Dobersdorf Plön county, (only 1.8 metres long x 0.5 metres wide) is, in this respect, an exception. Of the 20 simple dolmens in Schleswig-Holstein, 12 are sealed on all sides, five are classified as open at the end and the design of three (destroyed) simple dolmens cannot be determined. Of about 88 simple dolmens once found in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern there are still 51 survivors.

Subsequently, the first rectangular dolmens (Grammdorf in the municipality of Wangels) and passage graves (Deinste) were built, still sunk in pits. In the next step, the neolithic builders understood how to lay the foundation of the three or more supporting stones (which in simple dolmens were always placed on their longest sides) in such a way that their base of the structure could be closer to the surface of the ground. This higher positioning allowed a passage to be added that led into the chamber at ground level (below right). Now, however, a threshold stone was required that separated the chamber and the profane or secular passage (symbolically) from one another.

The effort was made to reduce the size of the slab covering the opening of the re-usable simple dolmen to one that could be manhandled by the settlement community. The simple dolmen with a passage evolved into the "extended dolmens", which are generally longer, usually have more than one capstone and - apart from the transitional types at Neu Gaarz, Bad Doberan county - have orthostats that stand on one of their two smallest faces, thus allowing the roof of the chamber to be higher.

Simple dolmens once lay within stone enclosures or under circular mounds, but many of these have been removed. The simple dolmen at Lindeskov on Fyn lies within a 168-metre-long enclosure, the second longest in Denmark (after the Kardybdysse, 185 m). By comparison, the longest German enclosure measures 160 metres. In Poland, the length of one chamberless enclosure is 130 metres.[6] In the Netherlands, researchers have only come across one site within an enclosure.

See also


  1. ^ Bakker, JA (1992). The Dutch Hunebedden, University of Michigan.
  2. ^ J. Müller In: Varia neolithica VI 2009 p. 15
  3. ^ Ewald Schuldt: Die Nekropole von Wollschow Kreis Pasewalk und das Problem der neolithischen Steinkisten in Mecklenburg In: Jahrbuch der Bodendenkmalpflege in Mecklenburg 1974 (1975) pp. 77–144
  4. ^ This detailed classification of dolmens into subtypes is only common in Germany. In the Netherlands and Poland these types do not occur. In Denmark and Sweden a distinction is only made between dolmens (Dysse, Döse) and passage graves. In Denmark the type of mound is used to distinguish dolmens in the nomenclature (Runddysse and Langdysse)
  5. ^ Salvatore Piccolo, Ancient Stones, op. cit., pp. 4 and 32.
  6. ^ Staatliches Museum für Naturkunde und Vorgeschichte Oldenburg J. A. Artymowski: Zur Ur- und Frühgeschichte Polens In: Altertümer aus Polen p. 11


  • Mamoun Fansa: Großsteingräber zwischen Weser und Ems. 3rd revised edition. Isensee, Oldenburg, 2000, ISBN 3-89598-741-7 (Archäologische Mitteilungen aus Nordwestdeutschland. Beiheft 33).
  • Salvatore Piccolo: Ancient Stones. The Prehistoric Dolmens of Sicily. Brazen Head Publishing, Thornham (UK), 2013, ISBN 978-0-9565106-2-4.
  • Michael Schmidt: Die alten Steine. Reisen zur Megalithkultur in Mitteleuropa. Hinstorff, Rostock, 1998, ISBN 3-356-00796-3.
  • Jürgen E. Walkowitz: Das Megalithsyndrom. Europäische Kultplätze der Steinzeit. Beier & Beran, Langenweißbach, 2003, ISBN 3-930036-70-3 (Beiträge zur Ur- und Frühgeschichte Mitteleuropas. 36).
Bare Island projectile point

The Bare Island projectile point is a stone projectile point of prehistoric indigenous peoples of North America. It was named by Fred Kinsey in 1959 for examples recovered at the Kent-Halley site on Bare Island in Pennsylvania.


Bliedersdorf (in High German, in Low Saxon: Bliersdörp) is a municipality in the district of Stade, Lower Saxony, Germany. It is east of Nottensdorf, southwest of Horneburg, and northwest of the simple dolmen megaliths of Grundoldendorf.

Like the rest of Stade, it is part of the Elbe-Weser Triangle.

Celt (tool)

In archaeology, a celt is a long, thin, prehistoric, stone or bronze tool similar to an adze, a hoe or axe-like tool.

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.

Cumberland point

A Cumberland point is a lithic projectile point, attached to a spear and used as a hunting tool. These sturdy points were intended for use as thrusting weapons and employed by various mid-Paleo-Indians (c. 11,000 BP) in the Southeastern US in the killing of large game mammals.

Grattoir de côté

A Grattoir de côté (translates from French as Side Scraper) is an archaeological term for a ridged variety of steep-scrapers distinguished by a working edge on one side. They were found at various archaeological sites in Lebanon including Ain Cheikh and Jdeideh II and are suggested to date to Upper Paleolithic stages three or four (Antelian).

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.

Guardian stones

Guardian stones (German: Wächtersteine) are standing stones, always occurring in pairs, at the corners of rectangular and trapezoidally-arranged stone enclosures (hunebeds) around a dolmen. They are found especially in Scandinavia, in the German states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Lower Saxony (Salongrab), Saxony-Anhalt (Drebenstedt, Leetze, Winterfeld) and occasionally in Holstein (Alter Hau). They are strikingly large stone blocks that form the corner post of enclosures or project above them like antae and lend the stone enclosures a monumental appearance.

Guardian stones are typical of trapezoidal enclosures. In Germany the most impressive examples of trapezoidal sites are Dwasieden, Dummertevitz and Nobbin on the island of Rügen.

At the Great Dolmen of Dwasieden, guardian stones of 3.3 and 3.5 metres in height guard the wide end of the dolmen and ones of 1.4 and 1.6 metres high stand sentinel at the narrow end.

At the wide end of the trapezoidal enclosure of Nobbin there are guardian stones of 3.3 and 3.4 metres in height, each weighing 25 tons. At the narrow end they are 1.5 metres high and weigh just under six tons.On the mainland, only a stone block at the enclosure of Kritzow, Parchim, reaches such a height. The guardian stones of sites in the Altmark are up to 2.8 metres high.

At several sites, guardian stones have been so arranged that the corner blocks jut out at an angle from the phalanx of stones. For example, the simple dolmen of Frauenmark, Parchim county, and the passage grave of Mellen, in the county of Prignitz. At the large passage grave of Naschendorf, Nordwestmecklenburg all the blocks at the narrow end are arranged in a concave way, so that the corners are very prominent. The same shape is seen at the wide end of the trapezoidal bed of Kruckow, Demmin county.

Entirely outside the phalanx of the enclosure are the guardian stones at a number of rectangular enclosures. These blocks are anta-like extensions of the stone sides of the enclosure and stand in front of it. Other guardian stones stand out very little or not at all from the rest of the stone enclosure. Examples are the enclosures of Grevesmühlen-Barendorf, Nordwestmecklenburg, Barkvieren, Rostock county and Mankmoos, Nordwestmecklenburg.

A variation of the guardian stone concept are those ends of long enclosures where all (four or five) almost equally high stones are many times higher than the stones along the two sides, as is the case at the Visbeker sites (Visbeker Braut und Bräutigam).

Investigations of the guardian stones of Dwasieden, Lancken-Granitz 1 and Nobbin revealed that the stones were not erected separately from the remaining blocks in the enclosures. Their bases are located at the same height as the other stones in the enclosure and there are or were always links in the shape of dry stone walls, to the other blocks. Although value was placed on especially high guardian stones, in general only glacial erratics were used that had a good surface on which to stand and therefore guaranteed stability. This necessity is demonstrated by the guardian stone of the Dwasieden site, which did not have a good base area for stability and fell over, as the 40 cup marks on its upper surface show.


The Harhoog is a dolmen, a rectangular megalithic tomb from the Funnelbeaker culture, located near Keitum on the island of Sylt in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. Discovered in 1925, it was moved to the present site in 1954 when a new airport was developed.

Lamoka projectile point

Lamoka projectile points are stone projectile points manufactured by Native Americans what is now the northeastern United States, generally in the time interval of 3500-2500 B.C. They predate the invention of the bow and arrow, and are therefore not true "arrowheads", but rather atlatl dart points. They derive their name from the specimens found at the Lamoka site in Schuyler County, New York.

Nordic megalith architecture

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 (Dysser, Döser), passage graves (Ganggrifter, Jættestuen) and stone cists (Hellekister, Hällkista).

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.

Pesse canoe

The Pesse canoe is believed to be the world's oldest known boat, and certainly the oldest known canoe. Carbon dating indicates that the boat was constructed during the early mesolithic period between 8040 BCE and 7510 BCE. It is now in the Drents Museum in Assen, Netherlands.

Plano point

In archeology, Plano point is flaked stone projectile points and tools created by the various Plano cultures of the North American Great Plains between 9000 BC and 6000 BC for hunting, and possibly to kill other humans.

They are bifacially worked and have been divided into numerous sub-groups based on variations in size, shape and function including Alberta points, Cody points, Frederick points, Eden points and Scottsbluff points. Plano points do not include the hollowing or 'fluting' found in Clovis and Folsom points.


In archeology, a racloir, also known as racloirs sur talon (French for scraper on the platform), is a certain type of flint tool made by prehistoric peoples.

It is a type of side scraper distinctive of Mousterian assemblages. It is created from a flint flake and looks like a large scraper. As well as being used for scraping hides and bark, it may also have been used as a knife. Racloirs are most associated with the Neanderthal Mousterian industry. These racloirs are retouched along the ridge between the striking platform and the dorsal face. They have shaped edges and are modified by abrupt flaking from the dorsal face.

Rectangular dolmen

A rectangular dolmen (German: Rechteckdolmen), extended dolmen (German: erweiteter Dolmen) or enlarged dolmen is a specific type of megalith, rectangular in shape, with upright sidestones and, usually, two capstones. The term rectangular dolmen was coined by Ekkehard Aner and is used especially in the German state of Schleswig-Holstein, where dolmens with this type of ground plan primarily occur. A more precise term, however, is extended dolmen, used by Ewald Schuldt and Ernst Sprockhoff, because these types of dolmen also occur with trapezoidal ground plans (e.g. the Gnewitz).

Neolithic monuments are an expression of the culture and ideology of neolithic communities. Their emergence and function are a hallmark of social development.

Tool stone

In archaeology, a tool stone is a type of stone that is used to manufacture stone tools,

or stones used as the raw material for tools.Generally speaking, tools that require a sharp edge are made using cryptocrystalline materials that fracture in an easily controlled conchoidal manner.

Cryptocrystalline tool stones include flint and chert, which are fine-grained sedimentary materials; rhyolite and felsite, which are igneous flowstones; and obsidian, a form of natural glass created by igneous processes. These materials fracture in a predictable fashion, and are easily resharpened. For more information on this subject, see lithic reduction.

Large-grained materials, such as basalt, granite, and sandstone, may also be used as tool stones, but for a very different purpose: they are ideal for ground stone artifacts. Whereas cryptocrystalline materials are most useful for killing and processing animals, large-grained materials are usually used for processing plant matter. Their rough faces often make excellent surfaces for grinding plant seeds. With much effort, some large-grained stones may be ground down into awls, adzes, and axes.

Tor enclosure

A tor enclosure is a prehistoric monument found in the southwestern part of Great Britain. These monuments emerged around 4000 BC in the early



In archeology, a uniface is a specific type of stone tool that has been flaked on one surface only. There are two general classes of uniface tools: modified flakes—and formalized tools, which display deliberate, systematic modification of the marginal edges, evidently formed for a specific purpose.

Yubetsu technique

The Yubetsu technique (湧別技法, Yūbetsu gihō) is a special technique to make microblades, proposed by Japanese scholar Yoshizaki in 1961, based on his finds in some Upper Palaeolithic sites in Hokkaido, Japan, which date from c. 13,000 bp.

The name comes from the Yūbetsu River (湧別川, Yubetsugawa), on the right bank of which the Shirataki (白滝遺跡, Shirataki Iseki) Palaeolithic sites were discovered.

To make microblades by this technique, a large biface is made into a core which looks like a tall carinated scraper. Then one lateral edge of the bifacial core is removed, producing at first a triangular spall. After, more edge removals will produce ski spalls of parallel surfaces.

This technique was also used from Mongolia to Kamchatka Peninsula during the later Pleistocene.


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