A new campaign in Drenthe is asking visitors to stop climbing the stone tombs of the 50 different dolmen – hunebedden as they are known in Dutch – across the province.
Translation by Traci White
The Drenthe Forestry and Landscape Management Commission is tasked with taking care of the 52 sites in the province, and they want to get the message across that the stone structures are monuments, not climbing frames. A sign asking visitors not to climb them has been posted at the largest one in Borger, which is where the Hunebedcentrum is located.
Dagblad van het Noorden reports that although the sign seeks to discourage people, especially children, from climbing the rocks, there is no official ban on climbing them and enforcement will be basically non-existent. It remains to be seen whether similar signs will be set up at other sites in the region.
The sign only includes text asking people not to climb them, but no explanation for why. The anti-climbing campaign is not due to safety issues, even though the director of the Hunebed centre, Hein Klompmaker, says that injuries do occur. The idea behind the campaign is to get visitors to treat the stone structures like memorials: many dolmen across the world are thought to be burial chambers.
Most of the 100,000 people who visit the various piles of stones are unaware that they may be tombs and do not behave as if they are in a graveyard: many people climb the rocks and some people even grill out inside them.
Visitors and at least one regional politician are none too pleased with the new sign. Bert Bouwmeester, the mayor of the municipality of Coevorden, has taken to Twitter to invite parents to bring their kids to the three dolmen sites in Coevorden where they are welcome to climb to their heart’s content. “They’re been here for 5,000 years without any sort of policy in place, so I think it’s perfectly responsible to keep that going for another century or so.”
The structures of dolmen differ around the world, but most of them consist of large stones on the ground that have other stones piled on top of them. The majority of the stone sites are believed to date back to the Neolithic era (4,000 to 3,000 B.C.E.). The Dutch and German names for the dolmen refer to the stones being put in place by giants, which is also a popular folk theory behind similar stones in the Basque country in Spain.
The Drenthe dolmens are some of the most popular tourist attractions in the province, and visitors can follow a 48.6 kilometre-long cycling route through Drenthe to visit dozens of the Neolithic sites. Many of them are clustered along the Hondsrug, a ridge of sand that runs through Drenthe and Groningen.
Photo source: Wikipedia