Dutch dolmens in proportion

About orientation patterns with Dutch dolmens (in European context)

This website was modified. This is an old page. Click here for the new page.


Often it's spoken about 'the' orienation of Dutch dolmens. For example it's supposed, that they have been aligned with the rising sun. On this website it appears to be, that one cannot talk about one sudden alignment, since a complete orientationpattern is involved. Three patterns can be distinguished, which can be associated with different trB cultures. In Drente (the westgroup) one finds mutual orientations between hunebedden and other orientation have been setup via parallel orientation lines. Azimuth 117º, 140º, 167º and 193º occur quite a lot. Possibly the 117º and 140º should be associated with the extreme standstills of the moon, and the 167º and 193º with the rising and setting of celestial bodies with a declination of -37º (like the star alpha Crux). Indications exist, that those orientationn lines have been setup in a grid. Such a grid has an orientation on its own. The common grid of dolmens D21 and D22 has an orientation of 43º/133º and could point to the winter solstitium. Generally spoken per dolmen more orientation lines are found. This also counts for the orientation pattern found in Mecklenburg (northern group) with some enlarged dolmens. Here we see no parallel lines, but a geometrical setup of the orientation pattern. This pattern is constructed in a grid for sure.

The comparison between the pattern of enlarged dolmens and the earliest written math makes clear, that the 'intellectual distance' between both isn't that big. In Mesopotamia (2000 BC) the pattern could haved formed the basis of an estimating calculation for the hypotenusa, in China (200 BC) it is very close to the solving scheme for proportional problems with right angled triangles. Moreover, with a little logical extention, it can have lead to further development of mathematical thinking. This goes on till the theorem of Pythagoras. Of course Neolithic man didn't mean to do math with their dolmens. On the other hand it may be supposed, that the scientific technical status quo of that time reveals itself in the construction.

When having a direct alignment on a celestial occurance, a rather exact matching azimuth may be expected. On the other hand can alignments, which have been achieved in a pattern, show some divergence. A number of arguments plead for the later approach. The azimuth values 117º, 133º and 140º show a small deviation against the exact positions of sun and moon. From the statistical analysis of the length axis of all Dutch dolmens there appears to be lack of correlation with a direct alignment on those celestial bodies (Reijs 1997). Some stars are eligible for an alignment (González-Garcia/Costa-Ferrer, 2003), but the azimuth of their rising (167º) is shifting a lot: with a north-south displacement of 15 km they are shifting 1º already or per century 3º. The limitedness of a direct alignments on those stars becomes manifest in a human life. When an orientation has been setup via a pattern, probably one must attach more value to a possible symbolic meaning then to the correctness of the alignment. The pattern could be a fossile remains of an initial setting, which was used in a kind of 'political centre'. Afterwards it was spread during different periods to distinct regions. This combines well with the assumption, that not all of the Neolithic settlements will have had the know how to build dolmens on their own. So they must have engaged experts to be in control.

What drive could those 'dolmen architects' have had to build the dolmens as they did? Politics, religion, technics and science will have flowded over in each other, as it did in tall ancient societies. Still the chinese book of Shang Gao (first book of the Zhou Bi), possibly stands close to culture of the pattern, which is found in some enlarged dolmens. This book presents a cosmology of numbers and geometrical forms. The right angled triangle stands for the proportional principle, from which heaven and earth evolve. Earth is presented as a square and heaven as a circle. The involved dolmens, but also the Dutch dolmens, fit with this image. The rectangular cellar encloses a right angled triangle and is embedded by a mound. The analogy of the cellar as earth and the mound as heaven is attractive. On the other hand we must be allert of the existence of more then one contemporary worldview as probably counts for the function of dolmens as well. An example of a complete different usage is described in the jewish book Genesis (31:45vv). Here megaliths are raised as a contract between two clans. All members of the clan are supposed to contribute with smaller stones. Then a sacrificing meal is organised and the gods of the clan god is called upon to oversee the contract.