For anyone interested in megalithic monuments I can certainly recommend a holiday in the Ardennes region of Belgium. In particular you should visit the small town of Wéris, which lies south of Liege and east of Namur, and is famous for its megaliths. At first sight they look like hunebeds but a closer look shows that they are in fact quite different. These monuments are called dolmens or menhirs. The Wéris Dolmen stands by the road from Wéris to Barvaux, called the Rue des Dolmens, about 600 metres to the northwest of the village. Close by, about 1½ kilometres to the southwest, stand a smaller dolmen called the Oppagne Dolmen. There are also a number of other menhirs in this area.
These dolmens are about 4,800 to 5,000 years old, which means that they are not as old as the Dutch hunebeds. They were built during what we call the New Stone Age by people who belonged to what archaeologists refer to as the Seine-Oise-Marne Culture. The heart of this culture was in the Paris Basin, but there were offshoots as far north as the valleys of the Maas and the Sambre and into today’s Flanders and the south of the Netherlands.
Excavations have revealed the remains of fires containing an ox tooth and a large number of animal bones. Other finds include pieces of flint, small bones from a number of people and shards of earthenware from the Funnel Beaker Culture and the Beaker Culture.
The monuments are made of a material known as puddingstone, an ancient river deposit comprising pebbles and sandstone cemented together. The Wéris Dolmen, the Oppagne Dolmen, the menhirs and other megaliths, including the Pierre Haina and the Lit du Diable (Devil’s Bed), form part of a 3 km alignment of standing stones and tombs which may have had an astronomical significance.
I would recommend that you first visit the small but attractive museum in Wéris. This tells the story of the megaliths and also mentions the hunebeds in Drenthe.
Text Harrie Wolters
Translation Alun Harvey