Ancient mounds as military shelters and gun emplacements

In war situations it may be obvious to use ancient monuments physically as observation posts, shelters and for gun emplacements. It is also perhaps the ultimate desecration of a grave.

Haas reported that the "Kanonenberg", canon hill (a Bronze Age tumulus?), in Lauterbach on Rügen and the "Schanze", entrenchment (another Bronze Age tumulus?), in Alt-Reddevitz were named after their military uses during the Nordic War 1700–1721 (Haas 1913: 242; 1925: 50).

Megaliths too have been altered through military positions and nearby trenches. The Ortsakte for Gaarzerhof contains a note by Ewald Schuldt (?) dated 3.6.1949, which comments about the military use of one local megalith during World War II:

"During the war, the giant's grave had been dug into deeply for the construction of a machine-gun position in the burial chamber. (...) It was arranged with Mr. Voß ... that the capstone, weighing 5,000 kg, which had been pushed from the burial chamber during the war, would also be moved back to its original position on the grave. Mr Voß agreed [to that] ... and also to levelling the trenches next to the grave." (my translation)

Other megaliths which were transformed into military positions or surrounded by trenches during the last war include Mechelsdorf (12), Kreis Bad Doberan (Schuldt 1970: 181), Mukran, Kreis Rügen (A.Hollnagel 8.1.1958, note in Ortsakte), Hohen Wieschendorf, Kreis Wismar (E.Schuldt 16.1.1969, note in Ortsakte), Eickelberg, Kreis Bützow (475a) (after Ortsakte), and the many stone cists in Wollschow, formerly Kreis Pasewalk, now in Brandenburg (Schuldt 1975: 80, 99, 105, 119).

Megaliths in Borchtitz and Burtevitz (191), Kreis Rügen (W.Lampe 31.7.1974, 11.9.1987, notes in Ortsakte) are known to have been damaged and used by the Nationale Volksarmee, the East German People's Army, mainly during the 1970s. The Ortsakte for Borchtitz contains descriptions by H.Großnich of the damage from 1973, 1979, 1980 and 1981. Willi Lampe noted in 1979 (in Ortsakte):

"A hole resembling a shelter was driven between the side-stones, so that presumably even parts of the chamber were scraped out. ... In all hollows remains of cartridge cases, tracer bullets, tins and the like [were found]." (my translation)

Monuments which have been put to such military uses can be found in many places. An example from ancient Greece is a Bronze Age tumulus in Argos which was used as a shelter during World War II (Antonaccio 1995: 15). Paul Virilio included in his splendid volume on Bunker Archeology an image of a shelter which was dug into a prehistoric barrow in south Brittany (1994: 160). It is ironic that soldiers should seek protection in graves.


Literature

Antonaccio, Carla M. (1995) An Archaeology of Ancestors. Tomb Cult and Hero Cult in Early Greece. London: Rowman & Littlefield.

Haas, Alfred (1913) Mönchguter Altertümer aus vorgeschichtlicher Zeit. Mannus 5, 235–248.

Haas, Alfred (1925) Burgwälle und Hünengräber der Insel Rügen in der Volkssage. Stettin: A.Schuster.

Schuldt, Ewald (1970) Zwei Urdolmen mit Gang von Mechelsdorf und Neu-Gaarz, Kreis Bad Doberan. Bodendenkmalpflege in Mecklenburg, Jahrbuch 1968, 179–189.

Schuldt, Ewald (1975) Die Nekropole von Wollschow, Kreis Pasewalk, und das Problem der neolithischen Steinkisten in Mecklenburg. Bodendenkmalpflege in Mecklenburg, Jahrbuch 1974, 77–144.

Virilio, Paul (1994) Bunker Archeology [1975]. New York: Princeton Architectural Press. (publisher's blurb)

© Cornelius Holtorf, last updated on 10 July 2001