Danish Dolmens


The first type of megalithic tomb occuring in Scandinavia is the dolmen, a table-like structure built of huge stone slabs and covered with a barrow. They were built in the Early Neolithic, c. 3600-3300 cal BC, and then re-used for centuries afterwards as other megalithic tomb types came and went. Just the other day, the indefatigable Klaus Ebbesen published a hefty catalogue of 404 particularly well-preserved Danish dolmens and the finds made in them, lavishly illustrated with 19th century watercolours. Out of almost 400 pages, only about 50 are text, the rest being glorious data.

“Dolmen” is a funny word. It’s Celtic in origin, meaning “stone table” in Breton. (You only see the table once the barrow’s been removed.) In Swedish, it means “the stuffed cabbage leaf” (Gr. dolma), or “the penis”. Our word for the tomb type is dös.

Klaus Ebbesen. 2007. Danske dysser. Danish dolmens. Attika. 384 pp. ISBN 87-7528-652-1.

Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

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