Slab cist and wedge tomb

Wedge tomb and slab cist

The rectangular slab cist from France, the wedge tomb from the Alps and the cist with gable hole probably from Caucasus. The occurrence of slab cists show a various pattern in Sweden. It is easier to comment types we know of since we normally discuss only the ideas here.

Slab cist, wedge tomb, Caspian trade, Nart Epos, Edda, Kalevala, Midgaard, Outgaard, Gobustan, Azerbaijan, three thursa-women, Three Maiden, Time River, Inanna myth, agriculture, Heidenstein, Arco Italy, Remedello, Isis dagger, Aosta, bucrania

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In Texas ... sorry in West Gautland even slab cists are bigger than elsewhere. This is about 14 x 2 metres and the slabs in appropriate size. Normal cists are half the size.

It is not appropriate to call them all wedge tombs as they do in France and on Ireland. Only a minor part of the Scandinavian slab cists is wedge shaped but the use of stone slabs is characteristic however there are some made of boulders. More often they are rectangular se for instance Slab cist of Dal. Maybe that it was initially influence from Egypt 3rd millennium that brought the slab making to Europe and Scandinavia.

The wedge tomb seems to be the start of Bronze Age around 2300 BC. It was a new technique to win the slabs from a quarry and shape them for the cists. So we find slabs from these gigantic bits to thin slabs in smaller cists. To the Age belong also the mining for copper and they have found copper artefacts in many wedge tombs. Generally in end of 3rd millennium there was much trade and prospecting.

Caspian trade

Science loves clear categories easy to describe and use as building bricks in theoretical buildings. So it seems that the dolmen and passage graves were build in fourth millennium BC and used only for a few hundred years. The slab-cist was introduced around 2000 BC and used for a few hundred years.

Plenty of dark ages there before the relatively big Bronze Age mounds. However they tell that there was a period with the battle-axe around 3000 BC when a foreign people conquered the entire Scandinavia just for a few hundred years. Believe it or not.

This ritual place is made in West Mongolia during Bronze Age. I think we should feel kinship.

There has also been much of isolationism so that few really believe that Scandinavia followed the southern cultures and that it was influenced all the time in spite of the fact that we have numerous artefacts and figures in rock-carvings showing cultural flow. To that we can add that there have been the Iron Curtain with little real flow of knowledge about East European history and farther east.

On Ireland they tell that the passage graves and cairns were used for burial consistently until Iron Age. I suppose it is much the same in middle Europe. Once we begin to study the stony monuments we discover that there are many types with variations. The slab cist seems to have been occasional fashion also in middle Europe. Then it is the question from where came the idea to similar building or did the idea occur at two places at the same time?

This cist or "dead house" is from Caucasus

With Internet all interested have got the opportunity to learn about almost everything in the entire world. When surfing I found the site of Serg Valganov and Serg shows fine pictures of the Caucasian stone house, which looks very professional in style and finish. At least one of the dead houses is dated to ca 2320 BC which corresponds to the approximation I made About the cists and the rock-carvings on Dal.

I selected the picture to show the cist on a hillside, but many are on the plane. This is rectangular but many of them are near the square. Normally the roof stone is bigger than the house so that there is caves on the front side. Serg has on his site made a virtual picture of a cist hidden in a mound. There are also small kerbstones and five radial stone strings.

In Denmark they have a few stone circles with radial strings too. Maybe they were symbolic. For instance the Egyptian symbol "duat" = heaven or animal round is the encircled star symbol with five radiuses. Or maybe they were used in practical astronomy. In our rock-carvings we have different "time-wheels" showing the division of the year.

Serg told me about the Caucasian Nart Epos and he means it is much like the Edda. But I think there is more of Kalevala in it. There we find the Sumerian "idea of watering". The idol Tree Lady was in Egypt called the Sycamore Lady and the epithet was given to Isis, Hathor and Nut. However even Sumerians had their Lilith, the owl hiding in a tree.

In common with Kalevala I find the Master Smith, Nature Goddess and the looting of the moon and also the sun and fire was looted. The Edda has only the smith Thor. We have also in common that the myths of Scandinavia are about "the people". It is not so obvious in the Edda, however the concept midgaard and outgaard = "at us and at them" tells about that. The Kalevala Epos is about the Kaleva People and there is not the great pantheon we find in urban cultures.

In the myth about the sickle the Nart people were growing millet, which they harvested the clock around by hand in the light of the crescent moon. Then their neighbour on the other side of the mountain looted the moon sickle. They tell us also that the village was divided in herds and cultivators. Then the Master Smith made the sickle and everybody was happy.

Our early Nordic sickles are in the shape of the crescent and made of flint. The tale may be as old as the flint sickle, since folk memory is a living thing. The story alters with time and technology. For instance late tellers put in much g old in their tales, but we have no corresponding finds.

There is also a folk memory telling that harvest should be done under the vane moon. Then it was natural that the moon disappeared. Such tales are only for the memory and the story is not the important thing.

In this connection we have to mention that we in Sumerian literature find a song to the pickaxe or hoe that opened the soil and together with the basket build cities. On Dal we have a few finds of pickaxes that maybe have been ritual items, since they could make a pick of anything suitable. From 4th millennium we have in Denmark the Barkaer temple for 52 pickaxes. Maybe they symbolised that the harvest should last for the year. There are a few sites that maybe have been for the same purpose. 

In Scandinavia and even Northern Europe we are indoctrinated to believe that we got all culture from South. That is not true and especially when it comes to megalith culture. Another thing is that ritual, astronomy and practical methods had to be adapted to local environment

In Scandinavia we are fortunate having our rock carvings that tell we practised the same symbolising of time, ritual and calendar as in the big cultures. Culture around Mare Balticum and in Northern Germany was very specific during Bronze Age and fitted the relatively sparsely populated lands.

There are few sure evidences about the trade and bartering from the North to the South. Possibly Scandinavian traders seldom travelled to Egypt and Sumer, but stayed at the later known transit places like the Caspian, Black Sea and Aegean sphere. However much of the symbolism have clear signs from the Levant as the transit place and centre of culture interchange between Asia, Africa and Europe.

What now Scandinavian ships on a rock in Gobustan Azerbaijan?

If we look at the composition we have a few similar in Scandinavia as for instance the Herrestrup Stone and the Inannamyth at the stone from Engelstrup. Unfortunately the picture is not too good. Are there three figures under the ships to the right? Yet that is the number of figures /idols at the Engelstrup stone and that is also the motif of a Sumerian seal with the core of the Inannamyth.

If it is three sitting ladies to think of the three midwives is easy. They were the idols of season on the heavenly round all over Europe including Lapland in North. At Leirfall Traundelag Norway there is a calendar suite with three ladies and that seems to be of the same age.

We can also associate to Voluspa verse 8 telling about three thursa-women = giant-women coming from the trolls' world. Since the "girls" are on the night sky they are of course king-size. In the Edda the trolls' world means normally somewhere in east or south-east. Interpreted that the ideas came from that direction.

In the Polish old calendar the three ladies of summer are called Anja with prefix for each summer moon that in Rome were Maja, Juno and Julia. They represented aspects of growing and birth-giving and are allegoric like the Sumerian myths and naturally describing nature. The later name Caesar made male. Most of the European calendars have taken over part of or the entire Roman calendar decided by the great Caesar.

This is the best side of the Herrestrup stone. The other is a little more like the Gobustan motif and it is naturally the season

Scandinavia, Egypt and Sumer have in common that the river and the ship were used for allegories about space-time. They were thinking about what happened in the particular time and space like old people in my younger days. Other ships are ritual ships and we know them also from Egypt loaded with figures that represent works to be done under that period.

Then the river was the running general Time they seldom picture since it is understood. The ships are events and works on the Time-River. In Scandinavian rock carvings they sometimes count days by the strokes on the time-ships. From Egypt I have only a few pictures from Wadi Hammamat with that type of ships. The oldest picturing we find on the ceramics from fourth millennium BC, but there the strokes seem to be oars. However in some cases they represent days or periods.

The ship type with one-stroke keel is early and we see that on the rock carvings at Evenstorp and there is a couple at the Law Rock Haugsbyn. The dating is then around 2000 BC. I have been surfing for more rock art from Caucasus and at this moment I can only see that the ship is rare in rock carvings in the Caucasus. The using of script symbols is also rare there and we have few symbols in common.


Inanna motif from Vitlycke Bohuslaen at left and from Azerbaijan at right

The hasty conclusion would be that the pictures are identical. However the Caucasian motif is much nearer the original Inanna symbolism. We see that the female gives her seed to the snake as womb and the male stand besides. That is just the early Inanna myth. At Vitlycke Inanna is represented by the cupmark. The Caucasian symbolism is normally about animals. That would be natural in the rocky environment. Besides the motif above I have seen some "season river" of the same kind as at Evenstorp.

I found a good source about Armenian rock carvings from the Ghegham Mountains. In that I found around 20 symbol we have in common out of my vocabulary concerning around 400 symbols from Scandinavia. Most of them we have in common with the great cultures and they are adapted to local environment.

We can not maintain that the Caucasian symbolism is source to Scandinavian vocabulary. We can not say that Scandinavian symbolism is source to the Caucasian symbolism since their bigger source in south is nearer. But we can conclude that the ship carvings at Gobustan are occasional notes from visitors. That kind of telling "Killroy was here" we see all over the world.

We know for sure that there have been cultural flow to Scandinavia from around 4000 BC with the double axe as indication. That continued to times we know of during Roman Ages. From that on we know for instance about the Volga-trade besides other possibilities via the great rivers of Europe. So here we get evidence for a possible trade around 2000 BC.

In the other end Scandinavia we have the slab cist with gable hole or the "dead house" with the finest examples from Caucasus. We know the same kind of holes from the Alps and in fact it is possible that the idea have travelled via Scandinavia to the Alps from where we got the wedge-shaped slab cist idea.

The slab cists with gable hole are concentrated to my neighbouring province West Gautland 70 % and much in Smaaland but only few at Dal. It looks like occasional fashion. Since we have normally pairs of crescent shaped sickles in the cists to think of the Nart Epos is easy. The dagger seems to be import from the Alps so we can speculated in a merge of these things to local rituals at Dal.

Ireland and France

On the site of Mike Weirs called Irish Genius and French Genius there are many fine photos of dolmen, passage grave, portal tomb, wedge tomb, slab cist and other stone buildings and with text in French and English

It is much the same state in Ireland with partly eroded monuments

Mike Weir writes about the wedge tomb:

"Wedge-tombs, built a little later than Portal-tombs, are associated with people who had the techniques for smelting copper and tin and making bronze. Thus they were able to cut down more trees and work previously-intractable and inaccessible land - a process which has gathered pace across the millennia, so that Ireland is now the least-forested country in Europe. (More recently, trees have been felled merely to winter-feed cattle with the ivy growing upon them!)

Their distribution stretches across the uplands of the whole island including the south and west, where very few earlier tombs were built. Those in the north-east of Ireland tend to be fairly elaborate, and feature a double or divided entrance created by the insertion of an orthostat in the entrance to the portico."

It is much the same style as in Scandinavia.

People in the past have always used local building material and adapted new fashions to the material. For instance Denmark became partly deforested already in Bronze Age. There are no rocks so all available stones were used and reused all the time. Nowadays there are few stony monuments left and open deep in the woods. Exceptions are the tombs build of big boulders in 4th millennium BC.

In rocky Sweden many monuments could hardly be separated from nature. In time suitable stones has been used in buildings. We have the tradition of using wood for buildings and the first semi-public buildings were halls in wood. In noble Beowulf they called them Heorot. Peasants gathered at the local ritual place. That was the last step before the church became the ritual place.

This is partly covered by a mound like some of the cists at Dal

The monuments were in use for much longer time in the crowded places in for instance Ireland and France. The Megalith Age lasted for more than 2000 years and that is more than 60 generations. Only in Scandinavia we can see some clear periods of building that coincides with growing corn as the pollen curves shows.

Archaeology has put too much importance to agriculture and some times ranked it higher than cowboys, gatherers, hunters and fishermen. Naturally that is rubbish since all industries give the food without ranking. In woodlands and semi-woodlands keeping cattle was the main labour until 19th century. Agriculture was just for luxury of beer and bread.

Mike Weir continues:

"The period of their construction coincides both with deterioration of the climate and overgrazing, which turned the fertile and well-drained lower uplands to blanket-bog: yet another human Land of Lost Content among dozens, such as Eden and the Sahara.

Many wedge-tombs, like most of the stone circles and rows that were built around the same time or later - and unlike the tombs which preceded them - tend to face the winter or summer sunset. The souls of the departed, perhaps, could fly out through the door and follow it, persuade it to return (or, on the other hand, continue) in its former warm and life-enhancing splendour.

On the other hand, he entrances of many of the Munster (Cork & Kerry) tombs face towards the settings of the major and minor southern moons.

A terrible fear of Bronze-age people in Northern Europe must have been that the climate would keep on deteriorating, and that one day the sun simply would not rise. And, perhaps, that the sun was rising only by human inducement through prayer, ritual and the orientation of architecture.

When there are examples of so many tombs, we should remember that each one (like each modern school) was different, and built by separate groups or communities of people. There is unlikely to have been one single cult or belief-system or even cosmology. Moreover, we must distinguish between the builders' intentions and the uses to which the tombs were put by later generations or incoming people- like, for example, 19th century National Schools today, some of which are private homes, while others are craft-boutiques.

As for the enigma of the double-walling, so similar to modern cavity-construction - the mystery remains."

I do not speculate in what the people of those days were thinking. I only point out the logic of making dead-houses and going beneath. It was an act of understanding the yearly circulation of life in nature and the yearly resurrection in nature. We can only see that they treated the dead like they treated the corn for resurrection.

Gallery-tomb (allée-couverte) from Conflans-Sainte-Honorine (Oise)
- with the sealing stone for the pierced entrance.

This lightly wedge shape is quite normal wherever the wedge tomb occurs. I think it is difficult to tell where it was constructed but as we shall se from the Alps we get some ideas. In France there are thousands of them and it is difficult to make categories.

The tombs have been used for around two thousand years until middle Bronze Age. Even other types of tombs have been used continuously. Surely it is the connection to agriculture that kept the use going on, while in Scandinavia the period with agriculture lasted for only a few hundred years. However we have no evidence to speak of. Just enough lose finds to tell about the ritual from few finds in untouched cists.

Most of them look like this in France. They sometimes could find some artefacts deep in the bottom but with no order and real context. We should mention the old megalith culture of Bretagne at Carnac and the many passage tombs. However we do not see much of the idea behind. That is why we have to look at the Alps.

In the Alps

They call it Heidenstein (pagan stone) near Basel in Schweiz.

The fashion of making cists or stone houses in the Caucasian style we find also in Middle Europé including Spain. It is difficult to cover it all so here we are only searching for the ideas. The dead houses are in the same style and even the holes.

In some places they have a free slab with a hole that have be used until recent time in folk medicine. It is the idea about the gate through which you go to another world/ Otherworld. We see it often in fairy tales and movies in our days. Symbol acts have always been an important moment even in a cure. Act in good faith is also an important healer or it is an act of sublimation.

Big Mama from Arco Italy

The Remedello culture has manifested their World Order at Arco with six stelae. The first in the sequence should be the "Clothed Child" that is an urge how things should be that society feed and get clothes for the child. From Anatolia to Spain there are find of amulets showing the little clothed child.

The mother is organising the food and on some stele she has a broad collar that symbolises the agricultural field. Much the same symbolism we find at Carnac in Bretagne France and show maybe connection already in 4th millennium BC. In the symbolism the double spiral "IN and OUT" flow between sun and earth and between surface and Underworld like the flow of fertility.

The copper culture in Remedello Italy was flowering during 4th millennium BC and with real heydays 3400 - 3100 BC. Sign is the dagger that could be shafted like an axe. Both as artefact and as rock carvings we find them with a seam showing it was caste in a mould However the dagger did not come to Scandinavia at this time and there was around thousand years without import of copper before the dagger period beginning ca 2300 BC. Only a few "maybe" shafted daggers are seen in our rock carvings.

The composition with 6 - 8 daggers alternatively men

Here the men maybe symbolises the cultivating brothers alternatively the grower and the cowboy- The shafted dagger could be used as a pick while the axe was meant as protection of the field against thieves on two or four feet.

The Isis' dagger has the crescent, as sign of water flow and the blade is maybe sun warmth and symbolises "going in" or "going beneath"


This dagger is in the shape of the Naked with lifted arms "I am ready"

In Egypt they have found figurines of The Naked 4th millennium BC. On the right there is a cut from a year placket from Yearman/ Horus Den's time in first dynasty. Surely there is symbolism in the glyph at right. It could be the ladder to heaven with the sun beam stepping down. We know from later times that it was pronounced ANKH with synonym "life". We also see the dagger of same shape as in the Alps and there are also artefacts and rock carvings in the shape of a dagger with handle to be carried in procession.

There is not much difference between the Sumerian and the Egyptian myth about resurrection in agriculture and as they hoped even for the human since the same ritual was also used at funerals. The difference is the Sumerian double axe found early in Scandinavia, while the dagger if Isis came with the slab cists thousand years later.

They animated the sowing with the purified Isis/ Inanna/ Ishtar and her mate Osiris/ Dumuzi the seed and the coming child to harvest Horus/ Sin / Tammuz. The syllable IS mean "to seek" and doubled it means "seeking" and that is part of her myth. In Denmark is some place names with the question "Where" indicating the settlement were living in her totem.

Inanna means maybe "stepping down" since she was the first to visit her twin sister Ereshkigal in Underworld and she is then the rain. Ishtar means maybe "seek earth" and Horus is Time. Sin was in an original myth the New Moon and the son meaning the new corn.

Franco Mezzena in front of his excavation in Aosta, Italy

The ritual dagger is oriented south west to north east and that would be after the moon cycle. There is a dolmen in the end where they buried the dead. But the bones were taken to a deposit after a time with no honour, order or ritual meaning. The dolmen is "face of Underworld and the blade symbolises "going in" se also The Vi

We are al prisoners of language/ words so we can hardly understand that the structure of the ritual acts were much the same as in orthodox and catholic church nowadays. Behind is the preconceived idea that our ideas are the only right and the forefathers were pagan and primitive.

Besides the ritual place there is a field where they "ploughed in" the dead showing that ritual ploughing was part of the funeral. The interesting thing is that at this settlement there was no agriculture since people were metallurgists. They adapted the ritual from their customers buying ritual axes and daggers from the village. It was maybe a kind of sales promotion for the products as well as for the myth. Many people were surely interested in getting some order in important events of their life so they bought it as such.

Here on Dal ca 10 % are of the wedge shape and some of them lies near possible quarries. According to Oscar Montelius a minor part of the bronzes came from Middle Europé and also from Italy while the major part is from England and maybe tin import from Cornwall. I have left it open if we got some influence from Caucasus too.

7 bullheads? Bromsbo East Gautland

In art and figurative remains we can often find some graphology since shapes and forms are often like finger print. In the Alps they call these symbols "bucrania" and here they symbolise "moons". In Egypt and later in much Scandinavian symbolism the bullhead symbolise spring equinox, time and a quarter from the time spring equinox was in Oxen.

There are some other rock carvings in East Gautland in the alpine style as for instance the type that could be planning the settlement. We cannot tell if the painter was immigrant or if some local painter has been on tour to the Alps and told home about what he saw there. The only we can say tat probably there was some cultural exchange.