Everyone has heard of Stonehenge in England and dolmens and menhirs in France. But who knows of even older and more numerous megalithes in The Netherlands? Even most of the Dutch themselves are unaware of the richness of the prehistoric monuments in their own country. But they exist and they have been there for over 5000 years. Older than the Egyptian pyramids! Built of huge granite stones, some of them weighing over 25,000 kilograms, dragged to the spot and piled up to form a rectangular stonegrave.
Unbelievable, but true. There are still 54 of them. 52 in the province of Drenthe and 2 in the adjacent province of Groningen. "Hunebedden" as they are called in this country. But not built by Hunen (or huynen = giants) and not beds but graves as we know now. So Drenthe, in the northern part of the country, is the hunebedden-province. It's a province of outstanding beauty with sanddunes, woods, moors, heather, picturesque villages, 200 years old farmhouses with thatched roofs. And mysterious stonegraves!
In Drenthe there are no mountains or rocks. But hunebedden are made of huge stones. Where did they come from..? The answer is: from Scandinavia. About 200,000 years ago, during an ice-period, most of northern Europe including our country was covered by a thick layer of ice. The big boulders of which the hunebedden are made of have been transported to The Netherlands by slow moving ice-glaciers. Even today, digging in Drenthe's soil, smaller and bigger stones emerge.
About 4000 BC the hunters that visited Drenthe before, changed their culture and lifestyle radically. They learned to grow wheat, to domesticate cattle and to build farmhouses. They settled here as the first farmers in the region. Archaeologists call this period the Neolithic’s or New Stone Age. This didn’t happen only here but also in the south of Sweden, in Denmark and the northwest of Germany. These farmers cut the woods with stone axes and cultivated the arable land. About 3450 BC they started building huge stonegraves using the big boulders that were scattered all over the place. They also made all sorts of earthenware, many of them in the form of a funnel. Because of this archaeologists say these people belong to The Funnel Beaker Culture.
So there is no mystery after all..? Yes there is. The big question remains unanswered. Why did these simple farmers make such a tremendous effort to drag those heavy boulders to a construction site and pile them up to making a huge stonegrave? And how on earth did they do this? There are several theories but even today it would be a hell of a job! A feeling of great astonishment and admiration remains.
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