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Siebensteinhäuser (Grab D)

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Holger Rix on April 30, 2010

Siebensteinhäuser (Grab D)

Chambered Tomb in Lower Saxony.

The Siebensteinhäuser (sometimes 'Sieben Steinhäuser') are amongst the most prominent megalithic tombs in Germany. (Seven Stone Houses) There are in fact only five tombs, allthough they have been called the seven even in the very first papers, dated back to 1720. This can be explained by the typical german use of the word 'seven' for 'a lot', even today some might say 'Meine sieben Sachen' (My seven things) for 'all of my things' or 'a lot of my things'.

The five tombs are very close together, the biggest distance (Tomb A and E) is just under 200m. The area belonged to the village of Oberndorfmark, until in 1934 the Nazies planned to establish a military training area as part of the military re-armament of the German Reich.

Quote Wikipedia: Due to the sparse population and the varied landscape this area was selected for creating the largest exercise area for Germany's armed forces, the Wehrmacht. In spite of opposition from the local population, within a few years 3,635 inhabitants in 25 villages had to leave their homes.

The area is in military use up until today, the Bergen-Hohne Training Area (German: Truppenübungsplatz Bergen-Hohne) is a NATO military training area. The only public access route to the dolmens begins at a barrier in Ostenholz, about 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) southeast of the Walsrode autobahn interchange. The access road runs for several kilometres through the out-of-bounds area of the military training area. It is regularly cleared of any spent ammunition from the ranges. The site is only accessible on days when no exercises are taking place i.e. at weekends and on public holidays between 8 am and 6 pm.

More Quotes from Wikipedia:

The Sieben Steinhäuser gravesite was established around 2500 BC during the neolithic funnelbeaker period by the first settled farmers. The large gravesite, Grave D, shows similarities to French gravesites, the other four are like those of the Elbe-Weser Triangle.

Although they are traditionally called the Sieben Steinhäusern ("seven stone houses") there are actually only five graves. Because an old illustration from 1744 still shows only five graves, it is assumed today, that the number seven is being used in the figurative sense for a larger number, as in the German expression sieben Sachen ("seven things") which means 'everything'. The first written record of the graves was made in 1720 by an academic. The regional author, August Freudenthal, contributed to their fame in the 19th century. Even then it was a popular tourist destination.

Description of the graves

The burial chambers are all rectangular and aligned in a northeast-southwest direction. Their capstones are not of bay construction, but almost always supported by three or four points of contact. The largest of the dolmens has a capstone measuring 16 by 14 feet (c. 5 m by 4¼ m) and is supported by seven upright support stones.

All the graves were originally covered with earth, so that they would looked like earth mounds or tumuli. Over the course of time the earth was eroded by wind and weather, so that the stones became visible again. Four graves were excavated and restored between 1924 and 1937.

In 1958 the graves were enclosed by protective earthen walls several metres high. They protect the gravesites from shell damage, because the site is located in the middle of a military training area.

Grave D with enclosure

Grave D is the most impressive in the entire group. The support stones of the short, almost square burial chamber consist of a slab on the southwest side and a second one on the other side. The chamber is covered by a mighty stone slab which measures 4.6 x 4.2 m and is half a metre thick. The inside dimensions of the stocky chamber are roughly 4 x 3 m. The entrance is located in the centre of the southeastern side, its support stones are original whilst the capstone has been restored.

A rectangular enclosure belongs to this gravesite, so it appears that we are dealing with a preserved long barrow whose enclosure has been restored. It is about 7 m wide und 14 m long, apart from an abrupt gap to the southwest. Because there are no traces of stone pillars having been removed, it is suspected that this could have been used to lay out 3 to 4 more sites for planned graves during the Neolithic era.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on April 30, 2010
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    by Holger Rix