The great Dolmen of northwest Europe: monuments of enchantment

V Cummings, Colin Richards

Research output: Book/ReportBook


Dolmens are iconic international monumental constructions which represent the first megalithic architecture (after menhirs) in north-west Europe. These monuments are characterised by an enormous capstone balanced on top of smaller uprights. However, previous investigations of these extraordinary monuments have focussed on three main areas of debate. First, typology has been a dominant feature of discussion, particularly the position of dolmens in the ordering of chambered tombs. Second, attention has been placed not on how they were built but how they were used. Finally much debate has centred on their visual appearance (whether they were covered by mounds or cairns).

This book provides a reappraisal of the ‘dolmen’ as an architectural entity and provides an alternative perspective on function. This is achieved through a re-theorising of the nature of megalithic architecture grounded in the results of a new research/fieldwork project covering Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia. It is argued that instead of understanding dolmen simply as chambered tombs these were multi-faceted monuments whose construction was as much to do with enchantment and captivation as it was with containing the dead. Consequently, the presence of human remains within dolmens is also critically evaluated and a new interpretation offered.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages320
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2021

Publication series

NameWindgather Press
PublisherOxford University Press


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