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Hunebeds

Hunebeds

These special dolmens located in present-day Netherlands were built about 5,000 years ago.

History

Keywords

dolmen, hunebed, the Netherlands, Neolithic period, Stone Age, prehistory, neolit, Chalcolithic, animal husbandry, agriculture, settlement, dwelling, burial chamber, lifestyle, settling, archaeology, ice sheet, megalithic, history, crafts, construction, glacier, glaciation, tools, technology

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Questions

  • In which present-day country are hunebeds found?
  • What was the probable function of hunebeds?
  • Which famous archaeological site is a 'relative' of the Dutch hunebeds?
  • Where did the boulders of the hunebeds originate from?
  • How did the boulders of the hunebeds arrive in the present-day Netherlands?
  • How many hunebeds are found in the Netherlands?
  • In which province of the Netherlands are the majority of hunebeds located?
  • When were the hunebeds built?
  • Which of the following is the oldest?
  • Which of the following can be associated with hunebeds?
  • The Dutch word 'hunebed' is the combination of which two words?
  • Which one is the largest hunebed in the Netherlands?
  • How much does the largest boulder of a hunebed weigh?
  • Where is hunebed D49 located?
  • Which term refers to hunebeds?
  • Which activity was NOT characteristic of the people of the Neolithic Period?
  • Which is NOT typically part of a hunebed?
  • Which of the following was NOT an important factor when building Neolithic settlements?
  • What is another term for the Neolithic Period?
  • Which of the following tools is NOT from the Neolithic Period?
  • What did the dolmens probably symbolise?
  • Which of the following was NOT used in building Neolithic houses?
  • Is it true that there were hearths inside Neolithic dwellings?
  • Is it true that archaeologists found dolmens only in Europe?

Scenes

Neolithic settlement

The Neolithic Period (or New Stone Age), the final stage of the Stone Age, followed the Palaeolithic Period (or Old Stone Age) and preceded the Chalcolithic Period (or Copper Age).

The appearance of farming and animal husbandry brought about considerable changes in the lives of Neolithic peoples. In parallel with the adoption of a settled lifestyle, settlements with more durable dwellings were established, especially in places where drinking water, forest, pasture and arable land were nearby. Inhabitants also built pens for livestock, close to their dwellings.

Bird's-eye view

Dwelling

Durable and comfortable dwellings were essential for a settled lifestyle. While Palaeolithic people used to live under overhanging cliffs, in caves or in simple huts, Neolithic people built and lived in the very first houses.

Initially, the walls of these houses were built from wood or wattle and daub. Later sun-dried adobe bricks were also used. The roofs were either flat or pitched depending on the climate. Inside there were no furnishings apart from the sleeping places which were made from straw and covered with animal hide and fur. The hearth was also inside the house.

Interior

  • side wall
  • roof structure
  • tools
  • sleeping place
  • rammed earth floor
  • hearth
  • oven

Family

The appearance of farming and animal husbandry resulted in a huge change in living conditions in the Neolithic Period. In addition, this change also affected the social structure, and extended families emerged. These families consisted of three generations: grandparents, parents, and children.

The clothing of Neolithic people was a lot more varied than that of Palaeolithic people. With the appearance of animal husbandry and farming, natural fibres like wool, cotton, flax and hemp became readily available. These materials were used to produce textiles by spinning and weaving. Clothes made this way were more comfortable and more durable.

Hunebed

  • tumulus
  • capstone of the entrance
  • capstone
  • kerbstones forming a ring
  • entrance
  • supporting stones of the entrance
  • supporting stone

Burying the dead became a custom as early as the Palaeolithic Period. The deceased were laid to rest in a sitting or foetal position. In parallel with having a different lifestyle, Neolithic people also developed new customs to bury their dead: they built tombs at the borders of settlements.

Dolmens built by Megalithic cultures were probably special tombs constructed of large rocks. Their interior may have symbolised a cave which gave home to the spirits of the dead. Next to the skeletons, archaeologists also found weapons, tools, bowls, pots and jewellery in these megalithic tombs.

Arrival of the stones

There are no mountains or cliffs in the province of Drenthe where the majority of the hunebeds are located. Stones needed for the building of these dolmens arrived to the area of present-day Netherlands during an ice age. These large blocks of granite stones were transported here by slow-moving glaciers from Scandinavia as ice sheets were moving southwards.

Manoeuvring the stones

The hunebeds found in the present-day Netherlands were built with a special technique. Moving the boulders, which provided the structure of the hunebeds, put Neolithic people to the test. The stones were manoeuvred into place with human and animal power, ropes and rollers made of tree trunks.

First, the supporting stones were placed in pits which had been dug beforehand. The capstone was then put on the upright supporting stones by using earth ramps, ropes and levers. There was a separate capstone for the entrance with its own supporting stones.

The Dutch named these 'hunebeds', which is the combination of the two words 'hune', meaning giant, and 'bed', meaning bed, as these large stone structures reminded them of furniture made by giants.

Walk

Animation

  • tumulus
  • capstone of the entrance
  • capstone
  • kerbstones forming a ring
  • entrance
  • supporting stones of the entrance
  • supporting stone

Narration

One of the most significant changes brought about by the Neolithic Period was the establishment of the first settlements.

Unlike the lifestyle of Palaeolithic people, the settled lifestyle of Neolithic people, who were engaged in farming and animal husbandry, required the building of more durable and comfortable dwellings. Thus, the first houses and first trades appeared.

Megalithic structures, like the dolmens found in a number of countries, were built mostly during the Neolithic Period. The dolmens found in the Netherlands are called hunebeds, that is "giants' beds". However, they were not beds; they probably served as tombs outside the settlements and perhaps symbolised caves.

The boulders from which the hunebeds were made originate in Scandinavia, and were dragged to the area of the present-day Netherlands by glaciers during an ice age. The hunebeds were built about 5,000 years ago with a special technique.

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