In the Prehistoric Park is a reconstruction of the burial mound of the Headman of Drouwen. The original dates from the Early Bronze Age. A burial mound (or tumulus) can be seen as the successor of the hunebed. It is a mound of earth in which, in prehistoric times, the dead were buried. The mounds were piled up above human remains contained in a coffin or an urn. After an initial burial the mounds were often used for later interments of other dead bodies. Some burial mounds continued to be used in different periods. In addition to their function as a grave, the mounds also seem to have been built and used for worship. The mound was made of earth and turf and did not contain the large boulders found in a hunebed. However, stones and wood were sometimes used. The mounds date from the New Stone Age, the Bronze Age and the Iron Age.

After the hunebed builders came the farmers of the Single Grave Culture, the first people to build mounds to bury their dead. In the New Stone Age, early Bronze Age and Iron Age, the mounds were surrounded with one or more rings of posts, but in the Middle and Late Bronze Age they were replaced by a ditch and an earth wall.

Burial mound of the Headman of Drouwen.

The discovery

The burial mound in Drouwen was discovered in 1927 by Professor van Giffen and extensively excavated under his direction. The tomb dates from around 1800 BC and contained a wealth of grave goods: two gold spiral rings, a short broadsword with the remains of a sheath, nine flint arrowheads, a bronze razor, a polished whetstone made of lydite, a flint firesteel and a bronze flanged axe. No traces of human remains had been preserved.

Mortuary house on top of the burial mound of the Headman of Drouwen. Photo Davado

The richness of the grave goods tells us that this was an important person, a man of high status, hence the name of Headman or Tribal Chief of Drouwen. Also unusual was the fact that the body would have lain between the four posts of a mortuary house which stood on the original mound. Later research in 1985 revealed that the ditch surrounding the mound was unusually wide.

Burial mound of the Headman of Drouwen. Photo Davado

The grave belongs to a type known as the Sögel-Wohlde group. More of these Sögel graves have been found in the northwest of Germany, but the grave in Drouwen is the richest one of all. It is clear that the Headman of Drouwen was a very important person. The sword and the razor are also of the Sögel type, and the sword is the oldest ever found in the Netherlands.

Sword of the Headman of Drouwen. Illustration by Jouke Nijman.

Acknowledgment

The reconstruction was designed and made by Tim Abelen, Jaime van der Heul, Sebastiaan Pelsmaeker, Nikky Kruithof, Sabine van Wijk and Andre van der Poel in 2013.

Part of the team: Tim Abelen and Andre van der Poel.

Sources

BUTLER, J.J., 1969. Nederland in de Bronstijd. Bussum. BUTLER, J.J., 1986. ‘Drouwen: End of a “nordic” rainbow?’, Palaeo-historia 28.

Translation Alun Harvey

Fotografie door Davado.

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