synonyms for a well-known class of monuments—namely, the dolmens. To make the matter more perplexing, structures of quite a different form, and possibly intended for a different purpose, are called by the same name.
A dolmen, generally speaking, consists of an arrangement of stones, few or many in number, supporting one or more stones in such a way as to inclose a cavity beneath. These supporting stones may form the four walls of a chamber, which may or may not be covered by a mound of earth. This chamber may or may not communicate outwardly by a long, narrow gallery (allée couverte). The mound may or may not have one or more rows of stones encircling it. And, finally, the stone structure may be on top of a mound of earth, instead of beneath it!
The simplest form of dolmen, if indeed it can be compared to the more elaborate structures bearing the same name, consists of several standing stones supporting one or more stones which rest upon them horizontally. If the roofing-stones rest with one end upon the ground, then it is called a demi-dolmen. A holed dolmen has one of the supporting stones (which generally forms one side of a square chamber) perforated. The demi-dolmens are not sufficiently specialized to establish any line of distribution. The holed dolmens are found in France and in India, and their curious resemblance has led many to believe in their common origin.
In the mound-covered dolmens a relationship is also seen between
those of Brittany and Scandinavia, in the passageway generally opening toward the south or east and never to the north.
From the mass of observations brought together regarding the dolmens, Mr. Fergusson has prepared a map showing their distribution in the Old World. From this map, dolmens are found to occur in the greatest number in France. They are also found in various parts of Great Britain, more abundantly on the eastern coast of Ireland,
- Lubbock, "Prehistoric Times," p. 124.
- Fergusson, "Rude Stone Monuments," 1872.