Hunebed D26 lies at the edge of woodland not far from Drouwen. The hunebed is well-known because it was the last hunebed in the Netherlands to have been excavated. It is a medium-sized hunebed with five lintels, all neatly in place. The hunebed appears to be quite low, and that is because the 12 uprights and the 2 keystones have almost disappeared under the sand. For that reason it almost looks as if the lintels are resting on the ground. D26 is one of the 14 hunebeds where one or more ring-stones can still be found. In this case, 13 of the original 27 are present. The positions of the 14 which are missing were marked by Professor Van Giffen. From the 4 portal uprights still in place, it can be seen that this grave had a long entrance. The shape of the original covering mound is also clearly visible.

Map of the area of Drouwen with hunebed D26. Map by Hans Meijer

Route description

From the Gasselterstraat in Drouwen turn into the Steenhopenweg, where you will first encounter two hunebeds on your left (D19 and D20). Go under the N34 highway as far as a junction and turn left here on the Veldweg (not straight ahead into the woods). Follow this road until it bends sharply to the right (where it becomes the Lunsveenweg) and then to the left. Do not follow this left turn but go straight ahead on a sandy track into the woods. After 100 metres turn right, where you will find a small parking area by a barrier which blocks the road. Walk a few hundred metres from here along the edge of the woodland until the hunebed comes into sight.

The excavation of 1968

Between 1968 and 1970 this hunebed was extensively – and fruitfully – investigated by a team of archaeologists led by Dr. Jan Albert Bakker of the University of Amsterdam. Under the stones they found the remains of 160 pots, as well as stone weapons, tools and amber beads. In front of the entrance they found a kind of sacrificial pit with 2 complete earthenware pots. D26 is the last hunebed to have been examined by archaeologists. Experts are reluctant to launch further hunebed excavations for a number of reasons. Firstly, it is felt that new excavations are unlikely to reveal any new information; and secondly, because any excavation is bound to cause unavoidable damage to the original sites. In the future, new techniques may enable archaeologists to avoid such damage.

The Institute for Pre- and Proto-history of the University of Amsterdam presented the entire collection of finds from the 1968-1970 excavation of D26 as a loan to the Hunebed Centre in Borger. This is the only museum in the Netherlands able to display the complete contents of an excavated hunebed.

Excavating D26 in 1968
Excavating D26 in 1968
Earthenware finds from D26 on display in the Hunebed Centre
Earthenware finds from D26 on display in the Hunebed Centre

Reconstruction of the 1968 excavation

In 2017 a replica of the 1968 excavation was laid out in the Prehistoric Park (Oertijdpark) at the Hunebed Centre. This will enable visitors to better understand the relationship between the excavation and the finds which can be admired inside the museum.

Replica of the D26 excavation in the Oertijdpark at the Hunebed Centre

Visit of Prof van Giffen in 1918

A “damaged” hunebed with the 5th lintel missing, but with 3 portal stones and 10 ring stones. From this description, Van Giffen concluded that the original condition was “fairly obvious”. A large part of the base portion of the original covering mound was also visible. The 12 side- and 2 key-stones were complete and more or less in place. Since 1871 D26 has been owned by the nation. Note also the desolate heathland of the Drouwenerveld which dates to around 1920.

(Source: Atlas of “De Hunebedden in Nederland”, by Dr.A.E.van Giffen, Utrecht 1925-1927 fig. D26)

For more information about this and other hunebeds in Drenthe see also www.hunebedden.nl and www.hunebeddeninfo.nl

All hunebeds are scanned in 3D by the Groningen Institute of Archaeology. See here the results.for D26

Photos of D26 (by Davado)

Translation Alun Harvey

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