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A journey into megalithic and mystical Germany

Hunebed Clemens-August-Dorf, Damme You will find them almost everywhere in Northern Germany: megalithic stone graves, colossi weighing tons from a past time. These 4000-5000 year old structures from the Neolithic lie in a belt, which stretches from the east of the Netherlands, over Westphalia, Lower Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxonia-Anhalt. According to the researchers, these 1000 stone graves are said to have served as burial or bone storage places for whole clans.

Archaeologists frequently find pottery from the Beaker culture, stone axes, arrowheads, amber disks and beads. Human remains are only rarely found, and allegedly never complete skeletons. Some theories about the dead cult of the Neolithic age assume that the bones of humans in these stone graves were arranged, into separate groups of long bones and skulls. Many researchers have come to the conclusion, therefore, that the dead bodies were first exposed on frames, trees or even on the ground until their flesh was completely decayed suspended. The remains of the skeleton were later placed within the grave chambers. Hekeser Stones in Hekese near Osnabrueck

The megalithic graves in Germany were built mainly from granite foundlings (erratics) from the last ice age, which were shifted by the ice masses from Sweden and Finland to Northern Germany.

The main part of the structure is an even chamber comprising two 'yokes' set in an east-west direction (a yoke = 2 wallstones and a capstone) and two smaller end stones. The soil of the burial chamber was paved with small foundling-fragments and boulders and the large joints between the wall and capstones were filled with drystone walling. The entrance of the "Emslaendischen Kammer" lies to the south. The entire construction was covered by the designers with a mound of earth which was ringed at the base with an oval stone setting to prevent the earth from slipping down. Sundermannsteine near Osnabreuck

In the past humans were unable to explain how these large and heavy stones were moved and stacked one above the other, leading to speculation that they had been created by giants. For this reason these structures or 'foundlings' were given names such as "Hünensteine", "Hünengräber" or Hünenbetten Definition (Hüne means giant) - Giant's Stones, Giant's Graves, Giant's Beds.

Unfortunately there are now only few constructions remaining intact. Many prehistoric sites were banished during the course of Christianisation as being pagan and devilish. Therefore another name commonly used to describe these megalitic constructions, is "Devil's Stones". Some of the stone blocks were also taken in the past and used for building material in roads and houses.

There is a legend surrounding one site known as the Karlstones (Charlemagne) in Osnabrück:

Emperor Karl had defeated those Saxons. In the Ohne (grove) the Germanic pagans had a large sacrificial offering place. It consisted of a powerful flagstone. However all effort to destroy this place with fire and iron remained unsuccessful. When emperor Karl heard that the Germanic leader, Duke Widukind, was concentrating a new army, he lost all his courage, abandoned the stone and decided to take off with the army. Seven brothers told him to trust God's assistance. Opposite the pagan victim stone they established the first Christian altar in our area. There they knelt down and prayed to God for assistance. Emperor Karl however had lost all hope and said, whilst striking the victim stone: as do not know how to break this stone, I also knowthat the neck of the Saxons will not bend! He had hardly spoken these words when the flagston esplit into three pieces. All regarded this as an indication from heaven and they trusted God that he would not abandon his servants in the fight.

Suentelstein near Osnabreuck Other megalithic structures include the Süntelstein (Suentelstone) near Osnabrueck which is a 4m high stone, a so-called menhir. It is likely that there was a stone circle around the Suentelstone in earlier times, but its meaning is now unclear. Legend has it that this stone was rammed into the soil by the devil, after it had tried to block the entrance to the church of the neighbouring village Venne.

Giebichenstein near Nienburg
Restruper Naepfchenstein near Osnabrueck
Externsteine in Teutoburg Forest near Detmold

Similar legends surround other enormous foundlings. The largest foundling of Lower Saxony, the Giebichenstein, lies close to Nienburg/Weser and it is said that this 350-ton stone should was thrown there by a giant. In the forest of "Maiburg" in the county of Osnabrueck there is also a pagan cult stone known as The Pfaohlenstein. Its name derives from the Germanic God "Pfaohl" (= Balder, son of the Wodan = Odin). The Pfaohlenstein was also surrounded by a stone circle, which was removed for the building of a warrior-cenotaph.

In addition sporadic cup marked stones are to be found. In the Osnabrueck range the most well-known and largest cup marked stone is probably The Restruper Naepfchenstein. Also known as "Duevelstein" (low German for "Devilstone") researchers believe the carvings are the marks of individual clans.

In Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania there are some stone circles which are still preserved. The Stone Dance Of Boitin, which consists of four stone circles, is allegedly a burial place, as an urn dating to the pre-Roman Iron Age was found there.

Then there are those much -visited Externsteine (Externstones) in the southeast of the Teutoburg forest, which receive approximately 650,000 visitors per year. The Externstones consist of 13 up to 37.5m-high sandstone rocks and have always been considered to be a cult place. Allegedly the Externstones were located in the Irminsul, the largest sainthood of the Saxons. In the 772AD emperor Charlemagne (Karolus Magnus) destroyed this pagan sainthood of the Externstones and converted it to a Christian sanctuary. The upper chapel is to have been a place for the observation of the stars. Apart from astronomical characteristics, the Externstones are characterised by an unusually intensive earth radiation. Although these opinions of the predominant part of the professional world are rejected, this theory has many stalwarts.


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