Mysteries of the Megaliths

As you perhaps know, I was in the Netherlands and Germany last month touring the Megalithic Route with other bloggers, the Council of Europe and the local partners. What the project is about and what the megalithic culture is, I've written about before (HERE), so this time I thought I'd focus on my own thoughts and experiences from the trip.

We all met in Borger, the Netherlands, to start our tour visiting the only museum dedicated to the megalithic culture so far - the Hunebedcentrum. It lays in an area rich in Neolithic and megalithic finds, and is situated next to the biggest hunebed in the Netherlands. It was amazing seeing this monument of the past just laying there, where it had been the last 5,000 years, holding on to its secrets. With one of the stones weighing over 20 tons! I guess I should explain the name hunebed. It is the Dutch name for megalithic tombs/dolmen, given to the monuments because the earlier inhabitans of the area thought they couldn't have been built by no other than giants. Hunebed actually means "bed of giants". Who else could move and position such huge stones?

The stone structures we see today are just the skeletons of the monuments of the past. They used to be covered with an earth mound, often completely burying the stones below. In Germany we visited a couple of reconstructed dolmens, or hünebetten as they are called there, with the biggest one being in Kleinenkneten. This passage grave is around 50 meters long, and the builders used 85 stones with an average weight of 4 tons to make it! One can only imagine how much effort it took to make these, thousands of these, in this area in Neolithic times. Seeing such monuments in real life is certainly humbling.

Today a lot of the original dolmens in the Netherlands/northern-Germany are lost. Many were used in making the dikes which now protect the Netherlands from the sea. Others where demolished and sold for other uses. It's sad that such an big, yet unknown, part of our cultural history has been lost, and it sheds light on how important this new Megalithic Routes project is. After all - the megalithic sites are some of the oldest and most mysterious man made sights we have in Europe. 

Oh yes, they are very mysterious.

It still remains somewhat unclear when, why, and by whom the earliest dolmens were made. We have theories about who built them and for what purpose, but as with most things related to prehistoric times, we cannot know for certain. After all, nothing was written down, and most of the finds are lost today. Human remains, like bones and ashes, as well as lots of pottery and other artifacts, point to these being burial chambers for the dead. But if that was the case, they weren't just built for one person. The human remains left suggest they were built for many people, very many. Perhaps for one important member of the community from each generation? If so, how did they choose who? Was it for both males and females? Was it only for one family, or several? Why are many dolmens placed right next to each other some places? Why are some dolmens lacking human remains if they were used as tombs? Has the bones disappeared through time, or were they never there in the first place? Could the human remains that we do find in these structures have been put there at a later time? Perhaps in the Bronze Age? Why were all dolmens positioned east/west with the entrance to the south? Was it to face the path of the sun, and/or the sun at its highest? Or was it to face some sort of ancient neolithic highway? Why does only one known megalithic dolmen have the entrance facing north?

We don't know.

The only thing we do know, is that we cannot know for certain.

I think that is something of the most fascinating about these monuments. They are impressive, they are enormous - and they are full of secrets. Secrets we will probably never know the answers to.

In this time of age where we surround ourselves with computers and smartphones, a search on the internet is never far away. We can always find the answers at any given time and we always know all we need about everyone and everything. It's refreshing to know that we cannot know it all, and it is kind of fun pondering about the questions of our past that we can probably never find the answers to. All I know is that I felt dwarfed standing next to these massive and timeless man made structures, both in body and mind.

Cultures before us attached lots of folklore to these ancient monuments.Their way of coping with not having the answers was by basically just creating their own. We find traces of this in the names given to the structures, and also in histories related to them. Many believed that fairies lived within these stones, like for example at the dolmen in Albersdorf, Germany. It's said that if you light up six candles at midnight, you wake up the fairies and they come out to dance with you. Other sights were, however, connected with darker forces such as the devil. Because of this many dolmen were destroyed to sewer the connection between the devil and the surrounding landscape.


The local team


Today it is commonly accepted that the people of the funnelbeaker culture (TRB) which lived in this area around 5,000 - 6,000 years ago built the earliest forms of this monuments. The culture is named after their characteristic ceramics and beakers with funnel-shaped tops. Instead of focusing on hunting and gathering like people did before them, these people mainly focused on farming and agriculture. They had crops of  wheat and barley, and they were herding  sheep, goats, pigs and cattle. Their homes were often small and modest, and often centered around a monumental megalithic grave. This shows the importance of these "houses of the dead", and the graves often have a stone circle around them - producing a barrier between the grave and the "land of the living".

When touring the megalithic route, one doesn't only have to stop at megalithic sites. It can be nice to get a little break from all the pondering about the mysteries, so luckily there are also lots of other cultural sites to visit, both old and new. We, for example, made stops at Schloss Clemenswerth, an impressive hunting palace in Sögel, Germany built for Clemens August of Bavaria, and at the largest burial ground in western Europe; Pestrup. The latter is an area south of Bremen, full of burial sites from the Bronze and Iron Ages, with a total of over 530 burial mounds! Here we did yoga on the mounds in the morning light trying to connect through the ground with our ancestors.. We found it kind of difficult to connect several thousand years back in time, but the yoga was fun!

We also witnessed the first bicycle event on the newly opened bicycle path along the megalithic route in Germany. The starting point was from Landesmuseum für Natur und Mensch, where we saw bog mummies and learnt about the changing of the landscape after the Ice Age. How the stones used for making the megalithic monuments arrived here from Scandinavia with the sediments from the ice pushing south, and we also learnt about how the people adapted to the Neolithic revolution. We ate delicious kvarg in the fresh air outside at the Milkhus in Bergedorf with the bicyclists, and ended the event in Dötlingen with pea soup and local snaps with the bicyclists, the major and lots of locals at Lopshof restaurant.

The last day we visited the Stone Age park in Albersdorf (Steinzeitpark Dithmarschen), where we walked between houses that are thousands of years old. Reconstructed, of course. Still, they offer a unique peek into the ways of life in the past. There are also stations throughout the park where we tried making stone age bread, jewlery, amber amulets, flint arrows and tested our skills at archery. Skills that were usefull in the Neolithic era, and really fun to try today.





In addition we visited megalithic monuments related to ancient wedding cults, ate the local spargel, came face to face with a neolithic man, saw how to make fire from rocks, cut leather with flint, had close encounters with cows, horses and ..the rain, heard stories about the megaliths in relation to astronomy, saw charming villages, met archaeologists, historians and geologists, explored old churches and saw a thousand year old tree. The Megalithic Route is certainly interesting and has a lot to offer, for both young and old. I am definitely happy I was chosen to be a part of the team exploring this route, and it was a lot of fun getting to know both the locals and the  bloggers/photographers.

These megalithic monuments have fascinated people for centuries, and they still continue to this day. Why would ancient humans erect such big monuments, moving and positioning enormous stones weighing several tons? Why would they go through so much trouble? As mentioned, there are lots of mysteries related to these monuments. It's not possible to say exactly who built them or why - and that is part of the charm, in my opinion. But if you'd like to get a feel of how impressive these monuments really are, you need to see them in real life. You need to walk around them, study them, touch them. Only then might they reveal their ancient secrets to you... Perhaps with a little guidance from the fairies.

#megalithicX

Ich bin ein Berliner!

... I alle fall for en dag.

Jeg ankom storbyen i 8-tiden i morges etter å ha forlatt Albersdorf, nord for Hamburg, kl. 04.30 i natt! Jeg sov hele togturen fra Hamburg til Berlin, og kom meg såvidt ut av komaen da vi stoppet. Det ble altså bare et par timer søvn på meg, siden vi tilbrakte siste kvelden i mørket ved en mega-megalith, og drakk snaps og så på the fairies som danset rundt oss (masse folketro i området), mens guttene tok timelapsebilder av steinen med stjernehimmelen over. Passende finish på en awesome tur.

Hotellrommet mitt var ikke ferdig, så jeg dro rett ut i gatene. Været bestemte seg for å vise seg fra sin beste side, og jeg hadde nok litt for mye klær på meg etterhvert.

Jeg startet ved regjeringsbygningen Reichstag, som ligger like bortenfor hotellet. Den historiske bygningen fikk påsatt en moderne glasskuppel på toppen for en del år siden, som sies å ha en praktfull utsikt ut over byen. Køen for å komme inn strakte seg derimot nesten helt til Polen, så jeg gave it a miss denne gang.

Deretter dro jeg bort til Brandenburger Tor, som for tyve år siden skilte øst fra vest i denne byen. I alle år har denne store porten vært et landemerke i Berlin.

Deretter gikk turen bort til Potsdamer Platz, via Holocaust minnesmerket - som består av 2,500 betongklosser i forskjellige høyder over et stort område. Man kan gå i mellom dem, og til tider føles det ut som man befinner seg inne i en enorm betongjungel.

Potsdamer Platz er et knytepunkt i byen og virker nesten som et slags Times Square i Berlin. Sony Center med den enorme paraplylignende saken tronende over gir en slags UFO-lignende vibe.

Checkpoint Charlie ble også besøkt, selv om det er megaturistifisert. Dette var en grenseovergang fra den amerikanske sektoren av vest-Berlin over til den sovjetiske sektoren i øst-Berlin. Passende (?) nok lå det også en McDonalds rett ved siden av..

Mange steder i byen kan man ikke unngå å merke gatekunsten (da mener jeg ikke slørvete tagging, gitt), spesielt i gamle øst-Berlin - og man har utsikt til mye av den fra S-Bahn (subwayen).

Jeg tok også turen til East Side Gallery, hvor en strekke av berlinmuren som falt i 1989 er bevart, og nå er omgjort til verdens største utendørsgalleri. Kunstnere har satt sitt eget preg på muren, og mange av motivene er allerede blitt ikoner på byen, murens fall og frihet.

Spesielt deilig var elvepromenaden på nedsiden av muren, hvor storbykaoset føltes miles away.

Egentlig blir det litt feil å si, har ikke følt noe storbykaos i det hele tatt i dag. Berlin virker som en veldig avslappet og artsy by. Massevis av grønne lunger, og svært få høyreiste bygninger (i alle fall i de områdene jeg fartet rundt). Arkitekturstilen er veldig varierende, fra de gamle historiske og dekorerte bygningene som er bevart, til firkantede betongklosser fra etterkrigstiden, og nåtidens moderne og glassdekte bygninger, stående side om side.

I like it!

Jeg etter jeg fikk sjekket inn på rommet, hvor jeg har en rød hest kommende ut av veggen (!), kollapset på jeg senga og sov bort et par timer. Veeeldig godt med litt avslapning etter noen hektiske dager.

I morgen går turen hjemover, men først har jeg noen timer til å bruke her i byen. Er litt usikker på hva jeg MÅ få med meg...?

In the footsteps of the giants

Tenkte det var på tide med en liten update herfra. Tiden går mega(lithic lolol) fort! Programmet er temmelig tettpakket og internetten ganske dårlig, så det er en dårlig kombinasjon bloggmessig - men vi klarer oss fint likevel.

Jeg er på reise med en utrolig herlig og morsom gjeng! Tror vi ler mer enn vi lærer, og vi lærer ganske mye her dag for å si det slik. Alle menneskene vi har møtt lokalt på museer og lokaliteter underveis har også vært utrolig gøyale - så jeg har ingenting å utsette på noe egentlig.

Vi spiser, drikker og koser oss - og får betalt for det! Crazy life, men helt utrolig awesome life.

Vi har sett temmelig mange megalittiske monumenter, både i Nederland og Tyskland, lært historien bak dem og utforsket dem både høyt og lavt. Vi har besøkt museer og kommet behind the scenes, vi har hatt nærkontakt med kyr og hester, skjært skinn med flint, laget bål av flint, møtt neolitiske mennesker face to face, båret steinalderklær av hjort og ulv, sett myr-mumier med rødt hår, utforsket et lite slott med lommelykt, spist kjempemye god mat, drukket mye vin og snaps, møtt massevis av mennesker, møtt munker, overvært åpningen av den nye sykkel-megalittiske-ruten, blitt gjennomvåte av regn, møtt arkeologer, historikere og geologer, kjørt på roadtrips, spist laks og asparges, vært æresbesøkende både her og der, og mye mye mer.

So much fun!

Det kommer et skikkelig innlegg (eller tusen) når jeg kommer hjem.

Nå har jeg en dag igjen her, før jeg drar videre til Berlin!

Auf wiedersehen!

Off to chase history in Germany and the Netherlands!


This picture isn't taken in Germany or the Netherlands, but it's of Stonehenge in England (which I visited in 2011) - below you'll figure out why it's still relevant.

(I'll be writing this post in english, but I've included a summary in Norwegian at the bottom)

Only about a week ago I was given a great opportunity to be a part of something very exciting in Germany and the Netherlands this upcoming weekend. I'll be part of the "Megalithic Team" covering the opening of a new Cultural Route in Europe - The Megalithic Routes. The event is organized in combination with the Council of Europe, and I will be covering it with three other travel bloggers/photographers/video makers.

The word mega-lith originates from Greek and means big stones. These big stones were used by prehistoric cultures to build structures such as sanctuaries, monuments - and most often - burial places. The megalithic structures are around 5,000 years old, and therefore the oldest monuments we have in Europe. They are even older than the pyramids in Egypt! The stones used in these constructions weigh several tons, and it is still a mystery how they managed to move them around thousands of years ago - with their limited tools and resources. In addition to such structures as mentioned above, the megalithic culture also includes alignments and circles of giant stones - mostly on the British Isles and Southern Scandinavia - with the most famous being the mysterious and ever fascinating Stonehenge.

These structures signify the big transformation in this area of the world 5,000 years ago, when people were moving from a hunter-gather lifestyle into agricultural communities. This was the beginning of the Neolithic Era, the New Stone age, and a cultural and technological revolution. Farming and the domestication of animals meant that the people of this age could settle down in specific areas instead of always moving around - chasing after wild animals to hunt and food to gather. They could now build communities, and this was also the beginning of the major development of art, architecture and culture.

The Megalithic Routes streches from Netherlands via Germany and Denmark to Sweden, covering the areas with the best preserved megalithic monuments. The route connects many of the most important monuments of the megalithic culture along the way. Even though these monuments have been used and re-used by following cultures from the Bronze Age up until present day, many of them are still standing and in good condition despite their age - which points to an amazing constructional feat by these prehistoric people. Other monuments are sadly crumbling under the cruel test of time, and that's why this international project is so important, because the purpose is to preserve and maintain these ancient relics of European cultural history, and also make them more known and accessible to the public.

Because of my archaeological background and interest in history I am very excited to be a part of this event, and I can't wait to share the experience with you along the way! Thanks to Cecilie from No Backpacker for reffering me, and a big thanks to Christa from The Fairytale Traveler for giving me this cool opportunity and letting me cover this event on behalf of her.

The hashtag of the event is #megalithicX which allows you to follow us on twitter, instagram and elsewhere on the internet.

Photos: Megalithic Routes

Reisemulighetene står virkelig i kø om dagen! Førstkommende lørdag befinner jeg meg i Tyskland for å dekke åpningen av en ny kulturell og historisk rute gjennom Nederland, Tyskland, Danmark og Sverige - som kalles The Megalithic Routes. Ruten er resultatet av et internasjonalt prosjekt mellom landene nevnt ovenfor, og har som hensikt å beskytte og bevare de megalittiske monumentene som befinner seg der, og gjøre de mer tilgjengelige og kjente til publikum. Mega-lith betyr stor stein, og megalitter er altså steinsetninger og monumenter av store steinblokker som enten står alene eller sammen med andre steinblokker for å skape en struktur. De fleste megalittiske monumenter er gravsteder, men den kanskje mest kjente megalittiske strukturen er den mystiske steinsirkelen Stonehenge i England. Disse ble skapt i den yngre steinalderen, og de fleste monumentene i området jeg skal besøke i Tyskland er rundt 5,000 år gamle. De er med andre ord eldre enn pyramidene i Giza! Jobben min er å fungere som en reporter for Christa fra The Fairytale Traveler, og dele opplevelsene mine både her på bloggen min og på bloggen hennes, samt andre sosiale media. Jeg blir også å oppdatere instagrammen min ofte, samt facebooksiden til Randombloggen. Dessuten venter et besøk til Amsterdam før jeg drar til Tyskland, og et lite opphold i Berlin etterpå!

In other words - exciting times ahead!

Les mer i arkivet » Juli 2014 » Juni 2014 » Mai 2014

, Bodø

Hei, jeg heter Renate og er en reisegal nordlenning med bøttevis av eventyrlyst, som ofte befinner seg på reiser i inn- og utland. Her på bloggen sladrer jeg om stedene jeg har vært, og drømmer om stedene jeg engang skal dra. Til nå har jeg satt mine bein i 60 ulike land og på 5 kontinenter, og flere skal det bli. Følg meg gjerne på reisen!



    Hei, jeg heter Renate og er en reisegal nordlenning med bøttevis av eventyrlyst, som ofte befinner seg på reiser i inn- og utland. Her på bloggen sladrer jeg om stedene jeg har vært, og drømmer om stedene jeg engang skal dra. Til nå har jeg satt mine bein i over 60 ulike land og i 5 verdensdeler, og flere skal det bli. Følg meg gjerne på reisen!

    Kontakt: rea_sand@yahoo.no

    + Legg meg til som venn


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