The Haga Dolmen: Neolithic Burial Chamber Sits Amidst an Impressive Megalithic Landscape
Sweden is a country with a rich archaeological heritage. The Scandinavian nation has many Viking era ruins and artifacts, and has a long history dating back to the Stone Age. One of the most important pre-Viking sites is at Haga, where a remarkably preserved dolmen can be seen. The Haga dolmen is generally regarded as one of the finest examples of a dolmen in northern Europe.
Where is Haga Dolmen?
The Haga Dolmen is located on the island of Orust in Bohuslän, Västra Götaland County, in the south of Sweden. The island of Orust is off the south-west coast and it is one of the largest islands in the country. It is sparsely populated and it is very popular with tourists in the summer. The district of Bohuslän is famous for its runestones, which were made by the Vikings.
Dolmen Have Been Found Across Europe and in Asia
A dolmen is a Neolithic stone monument, usually consisting of two or more vertical stones supporting a large, horizontal capstone. They are generally regarded as single chamber tombs because human remains and artifacts have been uncovered near them in the past, but it is not known whether this was the original purpose for which they were built.
Dolmens are very distinctive structures, in that they can be likened to tables. The Haga dolmen is a typical example - it has four standing stones that support a large flat stone. These monuments are very common all over Eurasia as well as being found across Europe – in effect they run from Ireland to India. However, much remains a mystery about these monuments and their builders are unknown.
Poulnabrone-Dolmen, Clare, Ireland (Fotolia)
The Haga Dolmen
Swedish archaeologists have long believed that the dolmen was the burial site for a person of high status. The Haga dolmen consists of four stone slabs, a capstone laid across them which is the roof of the burial chamber. The dolmen is located about 2/3 of a mile (1 km) from the historic Tegneby Church. It is also situated near a second, smaller dolmen and about 750 feet (250 m) away there is a large passage grave which is a tomb that consists of a narrow stone corridor leading to several burial chambers.
Tegneby Church (Public Domain)
A threshold stone, as well as a stepping stone, was placed at the entrance and the dolmen is encircled by a small embankment of earth, which is capped by edge stones. The monument is not extensive in area - the chamber floor is about 7 feet (2. 2 meters), in width. It stands at a height of 6 feet (1.8 meters) and its ‘roof’ is about 10 feet (3 meters) in length and width. The whole site is set on a stone cairn.
History of the Haga Dolmen
The Haga dolmen had been forgotten and lay undisturbed for millennia as the stone monument lay beneath a mound of earth and soil that had a diameter of about 20 feet (8 meters). It has been impossible to date, but it may have been up to 5,000 years old. It was unearthed during an archaeological dig in 1915 and some artifacts were uncovered. These included amber jewelry, a flint knife, and a stone axe that once had a wooden handle. Some ornaments made from slate were also discovered, in particular, a fine slate pendant. A small amber bead was dated to 4,000 years ago and this would show that it was still in use at that date.
When archaeologists investigated the nearby passage tomb and the smaller dolmen, nothing significant was uncovered. The relationship of the Haga dolmen to the other tombs is unknown. However, given that three Stone Age tombs were built in close proximity, this indicates that the area was of great religious and spiritual significance in the Neolithic period and this part of Bohuslän was an impressive monumental landscape at the time. These monumental landscapes with tombs and religious sanctuaries were common in pre-historic Europe.
Tanum Rock carving found in the district of Bohuslän (Public Domain)
How to get to Haga Dolmen
The dolmen is rather off the beaten track and it is on land surrounded by farms. Visitors can drive past some farm buildings and park their cars near the dolmen. The area is well sign posted and a gravel footpath leads through a wood for about a quarter of a mile (350 meters).
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There is some accommodation near the dolmen with guest houses in Tegneby and other in villages in Bohuslän.
Top image: The Haga Dolmen, Bohuslän, Sweden Source: Public Domain
By Ed Whelan
Bradley, R. and Phillips, T. 2008. Display, disclosure, and concealment: the organization of raw materials in the chambered tombs of Bohuslän. Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 27(1), pp.1-13.
Magdalen Midgley. 2008. The Megaliths of Northern Europe. Routledge
Tilley, C. 2016. The dolmens and passage graves of Sweden: an introduction and guide. Routledge.
Available from https://www.taylorfrancis.com/books/9781315418728.