The Danish island of Møn (Moen) has more than just white chalk cliffs that rise meters above the sea. Scattered throughout the landscape are large hills that have characterized the landscape of Møn for centuries. Most of the mounds are burial mounds that served in the Bronze Age to provide a resting place for the deceased. A few of these hills are dolmens, which we also know in the Netherlands. The dolmens Klekende Høj and Kong Asgers Høj are still under their hill as they were thousands of years ago. If you are planning a holiday to Møn, be sure to visit these two special grave monuments!
The dolmens on Møn
What is a dolmen?
Dolmens are grave monuments constructed from large boulders. These boulders were transported by glaciers from northern Scandinavia to northern Europe during the last ice age. In Denmark, but also in the Netherlands, the boulders were stacked on top of each other by the people of the Funnel Beaker culture. This cultural group is so called because they made many earthenware pots with a neck that was shaped like a funnel. In Denmark, and therefore also on Møn, the dolmens were built in the period 4000-2800 BC. The dolmen builders themselves lived in a village near the dolmen and indicated with their large grave monument that that was their territory.
How did the people on Møn work?
The boulders were probably rolled to the location in question via horizontal tree trunks. The entire community contributed to stacking the boulders to form a dolmen. Then the spaces between the large boulders were filled with small stones and soil. An opening was left free so that people could walk in and out of the dolmen. Large flat stones were placed on the ground and served as a floor. In the almost closed space, the deceased were buried in urns or as complete skeletons. After construction, the graves were used for centuries by subsequent generations. The villagers regularly came by to make offerings.
Dolmen or burial mound?
The mounds on Møn are often confused with burial mounds. Burial mounds can also be found on the island, but they date from the period after the Neolithic: the Bronze Age from 2800 to 500 BC. Not everyone knows that the dolmens were covered by a large mound of ground, so that they were completely enveloped. Over the centuries, the hill has mostly disappeared due to erosion, which is also the case with the Dutch dolmens. The mounds in which a clear opening is visible are therefore part of a dolmen and not of a burial mound that is completely closed. They were made during the construction of the dolmen. Earth was thrown up on either side of the dolmen, so that people could stand on the hill and place the top stones on the dolmen as a kind of roof. This is a theory, but the research on hills of Klokkende Høj and Kong Asgers Høj supports this idea. Next to these dolmens, on the edge of the partly intact hills, archaeologists found large boulders. They expect that the stones ensured that the earth remained in place in this way.
Two almost intact dolmens
There are eight dolmens on Møn. Archaeologists expect that there were approximately four hundred dolmens on Møn and the western island of Bogø. Over time, the boulders have been reused to build other monuments or the dolmens have been taken apart because they were located on arable land. There are several types of dolmens that all have one common similarity: a central space (the so-called burial chamber) in which the deceased were buried. Most dolmens on the island belong to the passage grave type. A passage grave has a row of boulders on either side of the entrance. This meant that people had to walk through a corridor before they could enter the burial chamber.
Two special dolmens, and also passage tombs, on the island are Klekende Høj and Kong Asgers Høj. Located several kilometers apart, they give the impression that not a year has passed since they were built by the people of the Funnel Beaker culture. Visiting the dolmens is free and if you want to go through the corridor to the central burial chamber, it is recommended that you take a flashlight with you.
Source: Sandpiper, Wikimedia Commons (Public domain)
The double dolmen Klekende Høj
Klekende Høj is the name for two (a so-called double grave) passage graves that are located next to each other. This type of dolmen, with a long entrance, is the most common type in Denmark. However, two passage graves next to each other that were hidden together under a mound of earth is rare. Klekende Høj is the only double passage grave type grave on the island and is considered the most beautiful cemetery from the Neolithic period in Denmark.
In 1797 the double grave was archaeologically investigated and this was one of the first scientific excavations in all of Denmark. The long corridors of the dolmens are each eight meters long and the burial chambers are each nine meters long. The research showed that Klokkende Høj was built in the period 3300-3200 BC. The remains of more than a hundred individuals who were buried in the dolmens over a period of several centuries were found in the burial chambers. When there was no more space, the older urns and additional offerings were pushed aside or removed to make room for new deceased. This makes it difficult to determine the period of use of the double grave, because the oldest remains are no longer in the dolmens, but outside them.
Klekende Høj was restored between 1987 and 2002. Fallen boulders were replaced and the hill was restored. The dolmens looked again as they did thousands of years ago, together under a hill. In 2010, the interior of the southern grave was reconstructed, complete with a doll dressed as a Stone Age resident and replicas of earthenware urns.
Source: Nico-dk, Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA-3.0)
The plundered Kong Asgers Høj
Three kilometers north of Klekende Høj lies another passage tomb: Kong Asgers Høj from 3300 3200 BC. The story of Kong Asgers Høj begins in 1839, when merchant Gustav Hage from the village of Stege on Møn started digging in the hill. He may have been looking for artifacts to sell. He made an opening in the hill and dug down to the dolmen. In the stone grave he found some flint tools, a stone ax and remains of a fragile skeleton. Hage soon concluded that grave robbers had taken the dolmen. He passed on his findings to the National Museum in Copenhagen, which gave the dolmen protected status in 1861.
In 1880, a national register was drawn up that was open to the public, the so-called discoveries and monuments list (fund og fortids-minder). This list contained information about ancient monuments. Due to the poor information about Kong Asgers Høj, the National Museum was approached. The museum started several studies to provide as complete information about the dolmen as possible.
The research concluded that the dolmen was built in the same period as the nearby Klokkende Høj. The long corridor that provides access to the burial chamber is 7.5 meters long. The burial chamber itself is ten meters long and two meters wide. The axe, one of the few finds, turned out to have been made six hundred years after the construction of the dolmen. This gives the impression that the dolmen was still visited and perhaps used after its construction.
- The ancient cemetery of Lindholm Høje (Denmark)
- Centuries-old frescoes in the Elmelunde church on Møn (Denmark)