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cloudvertigo's avatar

Dolmens are interesting - what's that about?

Asked by cloudvertigo (345 points ) May 7th, 2011

Dolmens are big pieces of stone, big stone tinkertoys, art pieces, stone moai and such—like at Stonehenge. It seems as though, as a species, we’re quite interested in these things. Would it be crazy to suppose that these things might be signifiers of a preferred (ice age?) environment that’s built into the human psyche—kind of like how a spider might choose a specific place to build it’s web or how a turtle might find itself migrating to a distant island to breed. . . and we just “make ourselves at home.”

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8 Answers

WasCy's avatar

I think apostrophes function in much the same way, the way people like to throw them around so much.

gailcalled's avatar

It would, indeed, be irrational to suppose that (not that I am sure what you mean by “that”).

thorninmud's avatar

and now for a bit of pure speculation…

I could see this as an assertion of humankind’s relevance, a protest against the ephemeral and precarious nature of existence.

I think of how the SETI project is ceaselessly scanning the radio frequencies coming from space, looking for ordered signals among all of the random noise. We know that certain kinds of order are sure marks of mind, and they stand as a monument to mind amidst all of the chaos of “nature”.

Our distant ancestors no doubt felt far more vulnerable to the arbitrary swings of nature than we do. Perhaps they took some comfort in setting up these monuments—of the most durable material they knew—that would be clearly recognizable as the work of a mind. Maybe they understood that it was this ability to establish order out of chaos that was the great strength of their species, and their best hope for survival.

They still speak to us across the millennia. Isn’t this why we get more excited by this group of stones, clearly put there by men, than by another group deposited by glacial action? We recognize in the dolmen a mind somewhat like ours, echoing through time. There’s something vaguely reassuring in that.

marinelife's avatar

I think that we like creating imposing structures, which will make a lasting mark on the landscape. I think that’s all it is.

anartist's avatar

Dolmens are huge, simple, and somehow shaped,placed, and erected by very primitive people in patterns [at Stonehenge anyway] that acknowledge the significance of the movements of earth through space creating the seasons. They are bound to fascinate, much as the the pyramids of the more advanced Egyptians do,
Arthur C. Clarke returned to the dolmen in the book/film 2001 [and 2010] to expand upon their mythic meaning.
@WasCy—you lost me completely

Stinley's avatar

I like visiting standing stone and dolomens. Anyone know the difference? Are dolomens standing stones in line? Anyway there are some huge fields of them in Carnac in France. I think that like the pyramids and later on the cathederal building, they are a show of what the humans can do, an expression of technological advancement. Possibly religious – that’s usually how they are described. But it is interesting that human create large structures in worship when a small hut would do really. I reckon they are more about the effect they have on other humans, not on a god.

I liked them as much as I like going into churches – they make me think about what humans can achieve and I marvel at that. I also enjoy their intrinsic beauty. I like the way nature creeps in and covers them in moss and lichen and grows grass and plants around them.

gailcalled's avatar

@Stinley: Shelley wrote a wonderful sonnet about nature trumping human achievement. A lot is compressed in these 14 lines.

Ozymandias

anartist's avatar

But Ozymandias was just the statue of a man [albeit a big one] . . .

Dolmens are more cryptic—and closer to nature

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