On Tuesday, February 1, 2022, Professor Colin Richards of the UHI Archaeology Institute was joined by Professor Vicki Cummings, of the University of Central Lancashire, to discuss prehistoric dolmens – the subject of their recently published book.
Dolmens are distinctive form of monument found across most areas of northern Europe. They have long been considered a form of chambered tomb consisting of vertical megaliths supporting a large, horizontal capstone. Architecturally, however, they differ from other Early Neolithic funerary monuments.
It is the capstones that set these monuments apart from known forms of chambered tomb. These enormous stones, sometimes weighing over 50 tonnes, are perched on top of three or more supporting uprights.
In their new book, Monuments in the Making: Raising the Great Dolmens in Early Neolithic Northern Europe, Professors Cummings and Richards argue that the megalithic architecture identified as a dolmen is not a chambered tomb at all but instead is a qualitatively different form of monument.
They go on to reassess the presence of the dead and argue the funerary activity was part of a process of generating vibrancy to the materiality of the dolmen.
As such dolmens were megalithic installations, magical and extraordinary in construction and strategically positioned to induce both drama and awe in their encounter.