Destruction of megaliths for clearing fields and land

One of the main reasons why so many megaliths have been destroyed and removed is that farmers cleared their fields of large stones. Achim Leube argued that such clearances of fields from stones and other obstacles were due to the extensions and intensification of the agricultural use of the land. This happened in different phases from the second half of the 18th century up until very recently (Leube 1969). Often the removed stones were re-used for new purposes (Baier 1904: 17; cf. Schuldt 1972: 141).
A megalith in the field: Gaarzerhof (5), Kreis Bad Doberan (1995)
Initially, and in places up to the present day, megaliths themselves were the 'obvious' places where stones from the fields would be dumped, e.g. at Lancken-Granitz, Kreis Rügen. In many cases, the 20th century archaeologist Ernst Sprockhoff and his colleagues found it difficult in the 1930s to describe megaliths even superficially, because of the amount of stones and debris which had accumulated at the sites over the years (Sprockhoff 1967).

Other megaliths however, have been completely removed from fields, in several cases with official permission, by local farmers and large agricultural collectives. They include the megaliths in

Many other megaliths were simply ploughed away over the centuries. F.W.Furthmann reported the following incident about megaliths near Putbus on Rügen (cited after Leube 1969: 21f.; links added):

"Weil die Steinsetzung dem Bauern H.W. aus Burtevitz hinderlich war für die Bodenbearbeitung, hat er ein Interesse daran gehabt, daß die Steinsetzung verschwindet. So nahm er mit dem damaligen Förster Verbindung auf. Und der meinte: 'de Steinhopen kann weg, und wenn's tatsächlich ein Hünengraw is, denn lat man, dat giwt ja naug von de Dinger!' Er besorgte sich dann Leute eines Unternehmers aus Lancken, die Steine für den Straßenbau warben, lieferte dazu die Sprengpatronen, und dann ging es an Werk."

"Because the stone setting hindered farmer H. W. from Burtevitz in cultivating his land, it was in his interest that the stone setting disappeared. So he contacted the forest warden at the time. And the warden said [in local dialect, CH]: 'the pile of stones can go, and if it really is a giant's grave, it doesn't matter since there are enough of them!' He had a contracter from Lancken supply him with workers, who collected stones for road building, provided them with explosives, and then they went to work." (my translation)


Literature

Baier, Rudolf (1904) Vorgeschichtliche Gräber auf Rügen und in Neuvorpommern. Aufzeichnungen Friedrich von Hagenows aus dessen hinterlassenen Papieren. Greifswald: Julius Abel.

Leube, Achim (1969) Warum verschwanden unsere 'Hünengräber'? Arbeitsmaterialien des Bezirksfachausschusses für Ur- und Frühgeschichte (Deutscher Kulturbund, Bezirksleitung Rostock) 3, 18–22.

Nagel, Erika (1977) Die Großdolmen von Nielitz, Kreis Demmin. Bodendenkmalpflege in Mecklenburg, Jahrbuch 1976, 7–21.

Schuldt, Ewald (1970) Die Dolmengruppe im Nordteil des Everstorfer Forstes bei Barendorf, Kreis Grevesmühlen. Bodendenkmalpflege in Mecklenburg, Jahrbuch 1968, 7–38.

Schuldt, Ewald (1972) Der Großdolmen von Altensien, Kreis Rügen. Bodendenkmalpflege in Mecklenburg, Jahrbuch 1971, 133–141.

Sprockhoff, Ernst (1967) Atlas der Megalithgräber Deutschlands. Part Two: Mecklenburg—Brandenburg—Pommern. Bonn: Habelt.

© Cornelius Holtorf, last updated on 10 July 2001