This archaeologist is exceptionally allowed to search for traces around dolmens

This archaeologist is exceptionally allowed to search for traces around dolmens

Archaeological excavations at Dolmen D34, a tomb about 8 meters long, between the villages of Valthe and Odoorn.Simon Linkins statue

pat! There’s an earthenware cup smashed into shards. Destroyed on purpose in front of the entrance to the new dolmen.

For example, Daan Raemaekers, Professor of Northwest European Archeology at the University of Groningen, imagines a scene that occurred five thousand years ago in the area we now call Drenthe.

At the beginning of July, Raymakers and students examined the soil around Dolmen ‘D34’, a cemetery about 8 meters tall, between the villages of Valthe and Odoorn. Near the entrance to the dolmen were found hundreds of pottery pieces, left there around the time the dolmen was built, and then covered with a layer of dirt. Raymakers suspect that they are the remains of prehistoric rituals, or any other conscious act related to the construction of the tomb. He has no direct evidence for this statement, but the idea is consistent with a widespread pattern.

digging forbidden

Fossils such as those from D34 are exceptional, as most Dutch dolmens and their immediate surroundings are protected. The soil is not meant to be turned upside down, not even by archaeologists. Among the stones of several dolmens are concrete slabs – laid in the 1980s – to stop diggers.

Because of these limitations, hardly any archaeological research has been conducted into buildings in the Netherlands for half a century. And in previous studies, when excavation was still going on, the focus was on the graves themselves. The discoveries from the Earth around it did not receive much attention.

The D34 also has a concrete slab, but the ground rules around it are a bit less stringent than many other dolmens. This is why the Raemaekers group was given the opportunity this summer to dig a few dozen square metres, thin layer by thin layer. For example, archaeologists have found indications that makers and users of dolmens were also busy around the burial chamber. With pottery, but also flint pieces, and noticeably piled rocks.

Flint was found during excavations around the D34 dolmen.  Simon Linskins statue

Flint was found during excavations around the D34 dolmen.Simon Linskins statue

shards everywhere

The Hunting Builders were among the first farmers to leave behind a lot of funnel-shaped pottery at the top. This is why archaeologists consider it to be part of the “funnel flask culture”. It covered much of northern Europe, from what is now the Netherlands to Poland, and from the Danube to southern Scandinavia. Hunebeds can also be found throughout the area, with the remains of people and things that the dead took with them.

In about D34, archaeologists found many pottery pieces around those tombs. They were there in such large numbers that according to experts, they must have been left there on purpose. The pots here and there seem to have been smashed on purpose. It’s a guess as to why it happened, but since the practical reason isn’t clear, archaeologists are considering rituals or something.

With this knowledge, Raemaekers looks at the pottery pieces around D34. Much of it appears to have come from two or three pieces of crockery: a cup and two other bowls or plates at most, probably thrown on the floor at once.

Soon after the shrapnel fell to the ground, the ground there rose. This happened to form a mound above the dolmens. For the graves were not bare in those days as they are now, but covered and overgrown. This covering allowed the pieces to remain in place for thousands of years.

Earth samples are collected around D34 for later analysis.  Simon Linskins statue

Earth samples are collected around D34 for later analysis.Simon Linkins statue

In addition to the fragments, there were other traces of human labor below the surface: pieces of wrought flint from the same era, and a few meters away, clusters of finely arranged rocks a few decimeters in size.

These rocks give the fishing story an extra dimension. Part of it was left around around the time the tomb was built, but another pile was laid a few centuries later, when dolmens were being introduced.

Goni fish have been used for centuries in succession, up to a thousand years. All the while, the remains of the new dead could be buried in the grave and people were busy around the dolmens. This is illustrated by the neatly stacked and arranged stones in the second layer of D34.

Raemaekers can’t figure out why the stones are there. But with the flint and bits cut, they made it clear that the builders and later visitors cared not only about the burial chambers, but also the environment.

Even older visitors

Thousands of years before the gravel builders built the D34, people were already living on the plot. This is evidenced by flint tools – possibly blades – that the Raemaekers team found in layers of soil beneath the Funnel Beaker’s tracks. The tools date back to the late Paleolithic period. This means that it was used by hunters who roamed the area at least 12,000 years ago.

One piece of this ancient flint lay behind the tomb and a handful of tools in front of it. So there is a good chance that there are still occupied pieces of flint in between, under the dolmen. But whether archaeologists are allowed to dig there is highly questionable.

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