More thoughts about Iron Age Dolmens

My interest for Iron Age dolmens (Järnåldersdösar) started last year when a dolmen was rescue-excavated within the “Gudrun” project. During this time an excavation on an Iron Age grave field was carried out by Jonkoping County Museum some miles north of Kronoberg in an area called Torsvik. This grave field did not have any Iron Age dolmens but mainly consisted of stone circles (domarringar), round stone settings and square unfilled stone settings with ports.An idea that I got when I visited the excavations at Torsvik is that Iron Age dolmen and the square stone settings in some way was connected or expressed a similar idea. I’ve made a sketch of how the square stone settings looks like. They could be described as a form of “tarand” graves, which are normally found in the Estonia, Latvia and Finland, a few are found in Sweden as well, in Uppland and Södermanland. But in contrast to the eastern ones these are not built as cells with common walls, but as square rooms with walls made up of small flat stones and a gate to the south. A variant is the square stone settings in which an Iron Age dolmen is enclosed.unfilled square stone setting with a gateway

1; Gate build by two stones. 2; Flat stone placed as a “roof” over the gate. 3; Gate to the south. 4; The “wall” is constructed by flat stones. The square stone setting is approximately 2 * 1 meters.

The analogies are that this is the grave types found on grave fields in a similar region in Sweden from the early part of the Iron Age. They are part of grave fields that contains a variation of the same grave types; stone circles, erected stones, round stone settings and square stone settings or cairns. They share the construction detail of “the gate/opening” towards the south. There is also the analogy that both eastern tarand graves and the unfilled square stone settings as they seem to contain both cremated and skeletal burials and the fact that there is a cultural influences from Eastern Europe.

One questing is how to interpret an “open” unfilled square stone settings vs. a closed one that contains an Iron Age dolmen. And they seem to represent a type of graves that enclose the dead, a form of a dead mans room. Another interesting question is how to interpret the gate or the absence of a gate. The Iron Age dolmen seems to be open and so seems the unfilled stone settings with a gate. One possibility is that the “gate” is closed/sealed on the stone settings and that one way to “close” an Iron Age dolmen is to build at wall around it, this doesn’t seem to the case on all grave fields though. Hopefully the excavations that Jonkoping County museum will do during 2007 will give some new answers.

The text above is based upon a few ideas that crawled into my mind about a year ago and that returned when I was informed of the coming excavations, in other words this should not be taken as a result due to re-search but more as couple ideas that I will look into in the future. The idea about the tarand graves came to me as I read an article by Björn Feldt in Fornvännen 2003:1.

//Magnus Reuterdahl


About Magnus Reuterdahl

I am an archaeologist/Osteologist from Sweden. My main intrest lays in north Euorpean archaeology in, preferbly the prehistory of the late iron age and the neolithic periods. I've also got a strong intrest for Chinese archaeology, especially the neolithc Yangshao culture. I also write about cultural heritage and cultural history. Mitt namn är Magnus Reuterdahl, jag är arkeolog och osteolog och arbetar företrädesvis i Sverige även om jag gjort ett par vändor till Kina. På den här bloggen skriver jag om mitt yrke, om fornlämningar, kulturarv och kulturhistoria m m. View all posts by Magnus Reuterdahl

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