Hunebedden (Dutch dolmens) in proportion

About orientation patterns with hunebedden (in European context)

Abstract

Often it's spoken about 'the' orientation of hunebedden. For example it's supposed, that they have been aligned at the rising sun. On this website it appears, that one cannot talk about one sudden alignment, since a complete orientation pattern is involved. Three patterns are distinguished, which can be associated with various Funal Beaker cultures. In Drente (the westgroup) one finds mutual orientations between hunebedden. Other orientations have been setup via parallel orientation lines. Azimuth values of 117º, 140º, 167º and 193º occur quite a lot. Possibly azimuth 117º and 140º should be associated with the extreme standstills of the moon, while azimuth 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 hunebedden D21 and D22 has an orientation of 43º/133º and could point to the winter solstitium. Generally spoken per hunebed more orientation lines are found. This also counts for the orientation pattern found in Mecklenburg (northern group) with some enlarged dolmens. There one doesn’t find parallel lines, but a geometrical setup of the orientation pattern. This pattern is constructed in a grid quite certainly.

A comparison between the pattern of enlarged dolmens and the earliest mathematical writings makes clear, that the 'intellectual distance' between both isn't that big. In Mesopotamia (2000 BC) the pattern could have formed the basis of an estimation of the hypotenusa, in China (200 BC) it is very close to the solving scheme for proportional problems with right angled triangles. Moreover, with a small logical extention, it can have lead to further developments in the mathematical thinking. This goes on till the theorem of Pythagoras. Of course Neolithic man didn't mean to solve math problems with their dolmens. On the other hand one could suppose, that the scientifical and technical status quo of that time reveals itself in the construction.

When having a direct alignment at a celestial body, a rather exact azimuth must be expected. But alignments, which have been achieved in a pattern, may show some divergence. A number of arguments plead for the later approach. The azimuth values 117º, 133º and 140º show a small deviation compared to the exact positions of the rising sun and moon. From a statistical analysis of the longitudinal axes of all hunebedden, a lack of correlation with a direct alignment on those celestial bodies emerges (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 their rising shifts 1º already or per century 3º. The limitedness of a direct alignment on such a star 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 agrees well with the assumption, that not all of the Neolithic settlements would have had the knowledge of how to build hunebedden amongst them. So they must have engaged experts to be in control.

What drive could those hunebedden architects' have had to build the hunebedden as they did? Politics, religion, technics and science will have flowed over in each other, as it did in ancient societies. Still the chinese book of Shang Gao (first book of the Zhou Bi) seems to stand close to culture of the pattern, which is found in some enlarged dolmens. That book presents a cosmology of numbers and geometrical shapes. 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 hunebedden, fit with this image. The rectangular chamber encloses a right angled triangle and is embedded by a mound. The analogy of the chamber as earth and the mound as heaven is attractive (but speculative). On the other hand various shapes for the ground plans are found, so maybe a few contempory worldviews existed beside each other.