Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,
Nicholas
nwhyte

Kathedralen uit de steentijd, by Herman Clerinx

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Een allée couverte is meer rechthoekig dan een gewone dolmen, die over het algemeen redelijk vierkant is. De ingang bevindt zich aan één van de twee smalle uitein-den. De twee lange zijkanten en het uiteinde waar de ingang zich niet bevindt, bestaan uit grote, platte, rechtopstaande stenen of draagstenen. Oorspronkelijk was de ruimte tussen de rechtopstaande stenen vaak gevuld met kleinere keien, of stopstenen, maar daarvan blijft na al die duizenden jaren niet veel over. Bij de Belgische dolmens zie je er alvast niets meer van. A gallery grave is more rectangular than a regular dolmen, which is generally fairly square. The entrance is at one of the two narrow ends. The two long sides and the end where the entrance is not located consist of large, flat, upright stones or orthostats. Originally the space between the upright stones was often filled with smaller boulders, or stopstenen, but not much of them remains after all those thousands of years. You don't see them at all with the Belgian dolmens.
Having hugely enjoyed the same author's book on Roman remains in the Benelux, I was delighted to find that he had also written this on the megalithic monuments of Belgium and the Netherlands (I didn't spot anything about Luxembourg). It's shorter (160 pages rather than 400), because there is much less to say. The first hundred pages look at the lore around the ancient stones, looking at mythology, history and the evidence from archaeology, not just locally but also in France, Britain and Ireland. The last sixty are a gazetteer to the Belgian and Dutch monuments themselves. This breaks down pretty easily geographically, because almost all of the megaliths in the Netherlands are hunebedden in the province of Drenthe, which are found nowhere else. (There's a few other bits and bobs near Eindhoven and Maastricht.)

I was pleased to see that I have been to at least half of the Belgian megaliths, though I am keen to fill out my list. (Maybe even next weekend.) I wish that Clerinx had also said a bit more about tumuli, of which we have several in the woods near us. I remain deeply sceptical of the widely held theory that most portal tombs were originally covered with earth or stones, which have worn off or been taken away over the years; I don't really see how that could work as a natural process, and I don't see why people would not have removed the large stones as well as the small. Clerinx points out that in fact relatively few of them seem to be associated with burials.

One interesting point: archaeology in the Netherlands is restricted to rescue digs on sites that are about to be destroyed by new construction, of buildings or roads or whatever. Since the Hunebedden are not under threat, there has been very little archaeological investigation of them. I realise that since so much of the land surface of the Netherlands has literally been brought above the waves in the last thousand years, there's not perhaps as much to find as in most countries, but it still seems to me that the Dutch are missing a trick here by ignoring relatively undisturbed environments.

Anyway, well worth tracking this down. I see that Clerinx has a more recent book, looking at megalithic Europe more widely, but meanwhile you can get this here.
Tags: bookblog 2021, megaliths, world: belgium, world: netherlands
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