Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tustrup Dolmens North Djursland

Tustrup Stone Age Grave site 


Most of our visible prehistoric memories are usually spread separately in the landscape,  but on a small plateau west of Tustrup village at North Djursland is another kind of memory from our ancient history. Here is a collection of grave monuments from Bondestenalderen, the socalled Tragtbægerkultur (Funnelbeaker-culture) . 

Bondestenalderen /Neolithic or New Stone Age marks the start of agriculture and domestic animals in Denmark. The period is known for its milled stone axes, fine ceramics and many of the numerous gravehills spread in the Danish landscape. 

The brook
When the grave site was in use about 5000 year since the landscape looked quite different. It was covered in hardwood forest which the Stone Age people was clearing for their fields. The brook was then a big water stream which a few kilometer away run out in a fjord-system connecting the sound with the sea of Kattegat. Some hills nearby were then an island in the Stone Age ocean, and the coast of Djursland was like a Swedish archipelago with small islands, sounds, isthmus, fjords and inlets.

The cult house (5x5,5 m) with an open northeast gable was probably the center of the activities of the grave site. Upon the floor by the back wall were found 28 pretty clay pots, identical to the ceramics which partly gave name to the Tragtbægerkultur and partly were used as sacrifices in front of the house and in the dolmens and the passage grave. The cult house is interpreted as some kind of temple where the diseased were placed while their graves were built -  and in which the rites were performed. Similar cult houses have later been found in other Danish localitities. 

At Moesgaard Museum by Aarhus are the finds shown in an exhibition and in a nearby field close to the beach is a reconstruction of the cult house. 

The passage grave has a 3x 10 m grave chamber.  It was built as a common grave and was used both  by the Tragtbægerkulturen and later cultures. Into the grave chamber leads a 6 m long passage . The passage was earlier covered with big stones like in the grave chamber. The stones are very large and impressive and the pasasage gave at Tustrup represents a giant working process.  Over 40 large stones between 1/2 and 20 tons were used in the building.
In the floor of the grave chamber's northern end are some flat stones which might be a mark for graves reserved for special people. In the passage grave is a special chamber which is popular among children. They can climb into a side chamber by the help of a flashlighr. Similar side chambers are found in only 26 out of 700 left passage graves in Denmark. The side chamber was built at the same time as the main chamber. There might be a purpose. Maybe it was reserved for the chief and his family ?

The two other big stone graves at Tustrup are

dolmens with polygonal grave chambers. The dolmens are traditionally considered as  forerunners of the big passage grave, but the ceramic-finds in the excavations were of the same character in both the cult house and the passage grave, so the graves must have been in use at the same time.

Northwest of the cult house is a freestanding dolmen chamber with 5 of originally 6 cover stones and a short chamber passage with 2 cover stones. In the floor  between the passage and the chamber is a socalled tærskelsten  (threshold stone) which marks where the inner wood- or stone door was placed. 

The fine round dolmen southeast of the cult house has no chamber passage. The opening to the chamber is just a space between 2 of 5 cover stones of the chamber. The round dolmen was restored in 1994 and rebuilt  according to the earlier excavations in order to give the visitor the experience of an intact round dolmen, contrarily to the rather desolated dolmen chamber. Along the foot of the earth hill which surrounds the chamber stand 13 big edge stones with a fine dry wall. The cover stone above the chamber and parts of the dry wall and the earth hill were added in 1994, and outside the chamber opening lies a stone from the dolmen with clear cleaving traces from present stone work in the area. Large stones were always a sought after building material. Maybe already used in the building of the nearby ashlar church in Nørager and as gravel in local roads or railways. 

Besides the prehistorics the Tustrup area has a pretty nature with marked paths and a primitive overnight/shelter close to the information-building at the western parking. The area undergoes constant natural care in order to restore a vegetation which harmonizes best possible with the vegetation of Stone Age and in order to visualize the varied landscape of the area. .

a creative farmer of today has made fine graphics in the field.

reconstructed cult house, Moesgaard, Aarhus.

Source Danske Fortidsminder/ Danmarks Kulturarvs Forening 

photo Tustrup-dysserne 2002 og 2015:  grethe bachmann

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