Hunebedden (Dutch dolmens) in proportion

About orientation patterns with hunebedden (in European context)

Markings on stones

On this website planes, corners and prisma shapes, which support an orientation, are specified by the collective noun 'marking'. The function of markings on stones together with diagonals and trilithon gates is to clear up the orientation lines in dolmens. They can be associated with the marking features going with the argument of recognisability on the page Accounts. Markings stand on their own compared to the orientation patterns they support. They are conspicuous. Looking around in a hunebed or dolmen, one will recognize them immediately, because they 'disrupt' the general shape. Even after the corrosion of 5000 years the boundaries between operated and untouched planes catch the eye.

Identify stone texture

The stone on the picture on the left is part of hunebed D14. At the top side, the stone is smooth and round by erosion. Left in the front the stone looks coarse and bumpy, because it has been cleaved on that place. This must have happened some time ago, because the bulges have eroded already. Also the right side can be the result of cleaving, but the coarse surface has faded. The surface has been smoothed by a pattern of dimples with a regular depth and size. We find an example of recent calving in D36 (picture on the right). It still has some sharp edges.

Although the right side of the stone in D14 seems to be real flat on a photograph, there are unevennesses of the surface nevertheless. By means of Dense Surface Modeling one can merge several photos of an object into a 3D model. In the model below there are elongated unevennesses of the same broadness more or less (inside the blue bounded areas). Together with the pattern of small pits this reminds of a technique called ’packing and rubbing’. The bumpily left side comes of splitting by dynamite rods. No pattern can be identified here.

D14: probably a part of a cap stone. On the left front side one can see half-round gaps, because of the boreholes for the dynamite rods. In this way the stone has been split rather smooth.
On the left: Inside the blue bounded areas some grooves run top down - ± 2 mm in depth, 12 cm wide and 25 cm long.
On the right: In the initial position the stone is viewed from the top. Then it turns searching for a position, from where the grooves can be seen. Later on it turns further searching for such a situation on the left font side, but it doesn’t find it. After the splitting the surface hasn’t been quarried anymore.

Identify markings

Markings are found in wide spread places and distinct situations. The initial observation of their existance was done with the hunebedden mentioned in the Introduction. There they support the mutual orientation of the hunebedden. Later on, the same markings happend to represent another type of orientation in some enlarged dolmens. Here they support the form of the chamber plan. This is worked out under Proportion grid. For example a prisma shaped marking is found in dolmen D38 to fix its orientation on D40. In the enlarged dolmen near Frauenmark in Mecklenburg (Schuldt 632) the prisma is used to clear up an orientation line of the chamber pattern. Herewith its spreading expands over 400 km - an area which covers more then one culture of the Neolithics.

Within the framework of this study it’s unsure if the distribution of markings spreads to the south too. In the French Ardèche a situation was encountered, which conveys this idea. Two dolmens of the ’la Devèze’ group lay 13 meters from each other. In the first dolmen one can find the remains of a cupule (hole with a diameter of ±20 cm), while the other dolmen holds an exceptional phenomenon: half a cupule. Both cupules appear to be aligned exactly horizontally (i.e. water leveled) at the major soutern standstill of the moon. Since this bears reference to just one observation, no conclusions can be drawn from it.

From this study three types of markings emerge: planes, prismas and double planes. The flat chamber sides of the stones are not included as planes. Lack of data does not allow such a conclusion. Only the flat pieces of the outside of a stone are called 'planes' here, since their normal shape is spherical.


Planes support an orientation line. The line runs alongside the plane. Among other usages, this marking is used to indicate parallel orientation lines. Of course those planes can have been shaped by natural influences, but still their usage is clear enough. Planes are used quite a lot. The most notable are D25-Z1, D25-Z2, D40-Z1 and D40-Z2, which occur in the same place with the same function. Sometimes a corner of a stone seems to be cut off in order to provide a way through to an orientation line. Those markings can be problematic, because they cannot always be distinguished from later calving that easy.


Prisma shapes are man made for certain. Because some shapes reside underneath the ground it's also clear that they belonged to the primal hunebed or dolmen. The prisma exists in two types: as a bulge or as a groove. When the prisma occupies the whole side of a stone, it can also be a double plane. As planes reflect the orientation of a line, prismas determine the exact start or end point. Prismas are found in: D6-Z2, D38-Z4, D39-Z2, D40-Z2 and the dolmen near Frauenmark.

Evidently Neolithic man used general known features with a specific function. Remarkably, markings were rendered in stone. This seems to be more laborious then painting. As far as known, hunebedden have never been explored for pigments. One must doubt if paintings would sustain when the years go by. The application in stone must have been an obvious choice.