Great stone grave

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The Flensburg Peace Hill , an unchanged large stone grave in which the soil was not removed. (2014)
Undestroyed burial mound of the passage grave Thostrup Nord
Undestroyed burial mound of the passage grave Thostrup Nord, burial chamber
Megalithic site near Reinfeld (Holstein)
Soul hole in the gallery
grave popularly known as the stone chamber grave near Züschen
facility near Nipmerow on the road to Lohme on Rügen location
Megalithic site of passage grave type in Bergen (Celle district) Location
Megalithic site near Drosa
The Ulanendenkmal in Demmin , a memorial to the destruction of barrows
The Esse War Memorial in France
complex in Stöckse
Chamber of the large stone grave near Klein Görnow
The so-called " heathen sacrificial table " in Visbek (Vechta district)
Dolmen near Mürow / Uckermark

A large stone grave , even passage grave or burial mound is a megalithic site . Most of the large stone graves in northern Germany were created in the late Neolithic ( late Neolithic ).

The popular name “Hünengrab” , which is widespread in northern Germany, is derived from “ Hüne ”, which can be traced back to the Middle High German “hiune” and the Low German “hûne” meaning “giant”. Even in the 17th century, there was a widespread opinion in literature that these were "graves for giants".


Hoops Reallexikon defines megalithic graves : “M., also known as stone graves, are the oldest grave structures that we can find evidence of in northern Germany and Scandinavia. They are built from large northern boulder blocks and consist entirely of a stone chamber that is covered by a hill supported by a stone wall. ” This statement is incomplete, as monuments of this type also occur in the Netherlands, Poland, central and southern Germany, and not only Boulder blocks were used.


  • In Germany the term megalithic bed is used to denote long beds that are surrounded by a stone setting ( peristaliths ), regardless of whether they contain a chamber or not. The mounds can be rectangular, trapezoidal, long-triangular or oval. Dolmens or passage graves are not referred to as megalithic beds. The terminology goes back to Ernst Sprockhoff . The German terms were partly coined by Sprockhoff under National Socialist auspices and are therefore no longer necessarily used in a European comparison. Bakker recommends avoiding the term as ambiguous.
  • In the Low German language area they are called Hünenbedden , Hünenbettden, in the Netherlands hunebedden , “hunnebedden”. In Great Britain the term was introduced by AW Franks (1872) and James Fergusson (1872) as "hunebeds". The Dutch term refers to all types of megalithic structures. Bakker therefore uses the anglicized expression "hunebeds" to designate the graves of the funnel cup culture of the "western and northern groups".
  • The international term dolmen ( Cornish for 'stone table') is also used in Germany. Ewald Schuldt suggested a subdivision for the megalithic stone graves of Mecklenburg ( large dolmen , polygonal dolmen , rectangular dolmen , ancient dolmen ).
  • In Danish , the term jætte, jættestue , 'Riese', 'Riesenstube', which is analogous to “Riese” , and the term dysse is used instead of Dolmen . In Denmark as kæmpehøje (with hills) or kæmpegraven common names refer barrows and my unlithischen the variants of the prehistoric grave architecture.
  • In Swedish , the facilities are called doze (for dolmen) or Gånggrifte ' passage grave '.


During his excavations in the Altmark around 1820, Johann Friedrich Danneil (1783–1868) demarcated the barrows, which were then called cone tombs, from the barrows. Georg Christian Friedrich Lisch (1801–1883), also in the first half of the 19th century, distinguished the “time of the barrows” from the subsequent “time of the cone graves” with grave goods made of bronze based on the grave finds . However, since the term conical grave has largely been abandoned today, the linguistically similar sound of megalithic tomb and barrow often causes confusion among laypeople. Often the "barrows" are confused with the barrows found in Central and Northern Europe, which consist almost exclusively of earth and mostly date from the Bronze or Iron Ages. Even official maps sometimes mistakenly refer to them as megalithic tombs.


Because of the acidic soils, bones in the large stone graves as well as in the flat graves of the funnel cup culture have seldom been preserved. At least two corpse shadows had been preserved in the Oldendorf II grave . The body lay on its back with legs drawn up. Overall, additions are sparse.


The main area of ​​distribution of late Neolithic large stone graves is in southern Scandinavia and the northern German lowlands, from the Vistula to the eastern Netherlands . These chambers, which today are often only preserved as stone constructions or collapsed piles of stones (see pictures), were originally mostly covered with earth and lay under round or elongated mounds of earth. By type of construction, they are divided into dolmens , passage graves , stone boxes , gallery graves and chamberless giant beds . A large number of megalithic systems are used in the funnel beaker culture. In the western group there are mainly T-shaped passage graves with a short passage. The hills and their borders are oval or kidney-shaped. In the northern group, on the other hand, systems with long corridors and round hills were built.


In Germany, the number of large stone graves in 1939 (within the limits at that time) was given as 900. The majority of archaeologists date the development of the Nordic variant of the facilities to the Middle Neolithic between around 3500 and 2800 BC. BC , with a tendency to date even earlier.

Destruction of barrows

Ideological and religious reasons played a minor role, although the stones were also smashed for church buildings. As a result of the Enlightenment that began in the 17th century, but especially due to industrialization in the 19th century, many of the monuments were destroyed. The facilities were also destroyed where they were in the way of the farmers when plowing their fields, but most of the stones were removed for the construction of ports and roads. Today there are still around 900 more or less severely damaged systems in Germany. According to estimates, this is at most 15% of the former megalithic structures. In the district of Uelzen, all but 17 (7.75%) of 219 plants were partially destroyed in 1846. The economic constraints, together with the thinking of the time, caused the destruction of both graves and boulders . An impressive example of politically motivated destruction is the Ulanendenkmal in Demmin, which was built from boulders from the surrounding megalithic complexes.


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

The Dane JJA Worsaae (1821–1885) occasionally discovered human bones when excavating large stone graves in Jutland , whereupon he classified the facilities as graves, whereas previously they were mostly considered places of worship and sacrifice. In the shallow graves of the funnel beaker culture, the bones are mostly in an anatomical bond, while this is not the case in the large stone grave horizons of the funnel beaker culture, even in undisturbed structures.

Some researchers are discussing the question of whether the facilities are graves at all. No human remains have been found in many, especially when the soil is acidic. In most of the others, the bones of the funnel cup people were incomplete and rarely in the anatomical association. Since most of the chambers could be re-entered through entrances, it was initially assumed that they were hereditary burial places of the peasant families, in which several generations were buried. Alone or lying in groups, they reflected the way of living in individual courtyards or courtyard groups. In contrast to this is the theory that the construction of the facilities for socially distinguished people assumes. Further burials in the chambers are z. B. Co-buried servants or spouses who accompanied their master into the hereafter. This theory, which was developed on the basis of findings from north-eastern Lower Saxony, leads to the observation that the findings point to an occupancy period that is too short for hereditary burials (around 100 years). Not only the question of the social position of the buried (including children) in the facilities cannot be answered with the current state of research, one is also on uncertain ground with regard to their function. So doubts were raised about their purpose as graves in the real sense. In the past, the disorder in the chambers was explained as the result of older burials being pushed together when a new one was brought in, today one wonders why one does not come across the last burial in the form of a coherent skeleton when excavating chambers that have remained undisturbed (see Grave B of the Seven Stone Houses ). Based on these and other observations, an opinion already held in Sweden and Germany in the 19th century is revived, according to which the complex could have been ossuaries in which only the skeletonized bones of the deceased were deposited. Hints

  • the burning of fires inside (out) and outside the chambers,
  • intentionally breaking clay pots,
  • on the construction of rationally difficult to interpret pits in the chamber floor ( megalithic graves of Hagestad )

and similar observations suggest that the megalithic complexes were far more involved in the area of ​​cultic acts and the scene of a differentiated ritual than is the case with tombs. The representative character of the complex, which was emphasized by long or round borders, cannot be overlooked.

Construction work

The construction with muscle power, inclined planes and levers is a technical masterpiece of the Neolithic people. The performance has been calculated using an experimental model calculation using the example of a large stone grave in Großenkneten near Oldenburg ; this resulted in the following working hours:

  • 1400 for stone extraction, excavation of boulders,
  • 74,490 for the transport of the boulders from an estimated radius of one kilometer around the construction site,
  • 33.160 for building chambers and corridors with boulders weighing up to 4.2 tonnes and for the edging (placing about 70 up to 2 tonnes heavy blocks, excavating standing pits totaling 60 m², bringing 700 m² of earth into the interior of the giant bed).

The total output is therefore 109,050 working hours. With this, a hundred people could erect a large stone grave in 110 days in a ten-hour day. Most of the other plants were much smaller.

The prehistorian Johannes Müller calculated 110,000 working hours for the construction of the giant bed I of the Kleinenknetener stones with the dimensions of 50 × 7 meters . 100 people could have erected it in 3.5 months on a ten-hour day.

See also


  • Hans-Jürgen Beier : The megalithic, submegalithic and pseudomegalithic buildings as well as the menhirs between the Baltic Sea and the Thuringian Forest. (= Contributions to the prehistory and early history of Central Europe. 1). Wilkau-Haßlau 1991.
  • Etta Bengen, Ulrich Brohm, Horst W. Löbert and others: Stone-rich Heide. Use and processing of boulders. (= Traces of time. Paths to archaeological monuments in the Uelzen region ). Museumsdorf, Hösseringen 1998, ISBN 3-933943-00-0 . (Exhibition guide, Hösseringen Museum Village, Lüneburg Heath Agricultural Museum).
  • Mamoun Fansa : large stone graves between Weser and Ems. (= Archaeological Communications from Northwest Germany. Supplement 33). 3rd, modified edition. Isensee, Oldenburg 2000, ISBN 3-89598-741-7 .
  • Evert van Ginkel, Sake Jager, Wijnand van der Sanden : Hunebedden. Monuments van een Steentijdcultuur. Uitgeverij Uniepers et al., Abcoude 1999, ISBN 90-6825-202-X . (the megalithic tombs in the Netherlands)
  • Johannes Groht: Temple of the ancestors. Megalithic buildings in Northern Germany. AT Verlag, Munich et al. 2005, ISBN 3-03800-226-7 . (Illustrated book)
  • Günther Kehnscherper: Hünengrab and Bannkreis. From the ice age on. Traces of early settlement in the Baltic Sea area. Urania-Verlag, Leipzig 1990, ISBN 3-332-00162-0 .
  • Reena Perschke: The German Megalithic Grave Nomenclature - A contribution to dealing with ideologically loaded technical terminology. Archaeological Information, Vol. 39, 2016, pp. 167–176.
  • Heinz Schirnig (Ed.): Great stone graves in Lower Saxony. (= Publications of the prehistoric collections of the State Museum in Hanover. 24). Lax, Hildesheim 1979, ISBN 3-7848-1224-4 . (Accompanying documents to exhibitions)
  • Ingrid Schmidt: megalithic grave and sacrificial stone. Soil monuments on the island of Rügen. Hinstorff Verlag, Rostock 2001, ISBN 3-356-00917-6 .
  • Ernst Sprockhoff : Atlas of the megalithic tombs of Germany. Part 1: Schleswig-Holstein. Habelt, Bonn 1965.
  • Ernst Sprockhoff: Atlas of the megalithic tombs of Germany. Part 2: Mecklenburg - Brandenburg - Pomerania. Habelt, Bonn 1967.
  • Ernst Sprockhoff: Atlas of the megalithic tombs of Germany. Part 3: Lower Saxony - Westphalia. Edited by Gerhard Körner. Habelt, Bonn 1975, ISBN 3-7749-1326-9 (Volume 3, 2). (Brief descriptions, maps and sketches - in separate volumes - for the evidence compiled by Sprockhoff for a good 985 megalithic graves)
  • various archaeological guides of the RGZM Mainz from the publishing house Philipp von Zabern (regional).

Web links

Commons : Hünengrab  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Jacob Grimm, Wilhelm Grimm: German Dictionary . tape 10 . Leipzig 1877, p. 1943 .
  2. A corresponding entry can be found, for example, in Merian's Theatrum Europaeum
  3. Johannes Hoops (Ed.): Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde . Volume 3: K-Ro. Publisher by Karl J. Trübner, Leipzig 1915–1916.
  4. ^ Jan Albert Bakker: The Dutch hunebedden: megalithic tombs of the funnel beaker culture. Ann Arbor, International Monographs in Prehistory 1992.
  5. ^ A b c Jan Albert Bakker: Is a social differentiation detectable in the TRB culture? Jungsteinsite, 2010, p. 5.
  6. ^ Jan Albert Bakker: Is a social differentiation detectable in the TRB culture? Jungsteinsite, 2010, p. 5 with reference to Ernst Sprockhoff: Atlas of Germany's megalithic tombs . Part 1: Schleswig-Holstein. Bonn 1966; Ernst Sprockhoff: Atlas of the megalithic tombs of Germany . Part 2: Mecklenburg-Brandenburg-Pomerania. Bonn 1967; Ernst Sprockhoff: Atlas of the megalithic tombs of Germany. Part 3: Lower Saxony-Westphalia. Edited from the estate by Gerhard Körner (and Friedrich Laux). Bonn 1975; Friedrich Laux: The funnel cup culture between the Elbe and Ems (Lower Saxony). In: D. Jankowska (Ed.): The funnel cup culture - new research and hypotheses. Volume 1, Poznań 1990, pp. 181-185; Friedrich Laux: Considerations on the large stone graves in Lower Saxony and Westphalia. In: New excavations and research in Lower Saxony. 19, 1991, pp. 21-99.
  7. ^ Ernst Sprockhoff: Chamberless giant beds in the Sachsenwald. In: Offa. 13, 1954, pp. 1-16.
  8. Reena Perschke: The German megalithic grave nomenclature - A contribution to dealing with ideologically loaded technical terminology. In: Archäologische Informations, Vol. 39. 2016, pp. 167–176 , accessed on March 1, 2017 .
  9. ^ A b c Jan Albert Bakker: Is a social differentiation detectable in the TRB culture? Jungsteinsite, 2010, p. 1.
  10. Ewald Schuldt: The Mecklenburg megalithic tombs: Investigations into their architecture and function. (= Contributions to the prehistory and early history of the Rostock, Schwerin and Neubrandenburg districts. 6). German Science Publishing House, Berlin 1972.
  11. Rainer Kossian: Funnel Beaker culture in Germany and in the Netherlands. Halle 2005, list, pp. 105–106.
  12. ^ Jan Albert Bakker: Is a social differentiation detectable in the TRB culture? Jungsteinsite, 2010, p. 7.
  13. ^ Jan Albert Bakker: Is a social differentiation detectable in the TRB culture? Jungsteinsite, 2010, p. 2.
  14. Around 3600-3200 BC Chr., So Bernd Zich: In: Archeology in Germany. Issue 4, 2009, p. 18.
  15. Johannes Müller . In: Varia neolithic. VI, 2009, p. 15.
  16. Chr. Steinmann: Are North German large stone graves not graves at all? In: Archeology in Germany. Issue 4, 2009, p. 32.
  17. Ute Bartelt : RiesenWerk. How much work does a large stone grave make? In: Archeology in Lower Saxony , 2007, pp. 22–26