The visible dead: dolmens and the landscape in Early Bronze Age Jordan

  • James Fraser British Museum



Dolmens are usually described as part of a regional megalithic phenomenon that spanned the 5th-2nd millennia BC. However, this presentation assumes that most ‘dolmens’ are mis-identified. When strictly defined, dolmens better reflect a local funerary tradition of the 4th millennium BC.


The term dolmen includes a variety of features whose only similarity is their use of large stone slabs. This presentation defines a dolmen as a freestanding,rectangular chamber formed by two upright orthostats along each long side, and a single roof slab over the top.

Dolmens have often been conflated with cairns. This presentation defines a cairn as a large pile of small stones. Such features may have contained a low, cist burial chamber; others may simply be piles of field clearance.


Dolmens, as defined above, concentrate within a limited area of the east rift escarpment of the Jordan Valley, consistent with a local funerary tradition.


Recent dolmen excavations have yielded assemblages that date exclusively to the EB I (c.3700-3000 BC). This talk examines the close spatial relationship between dolmens and EB I settlement sites in a discrete geographical zone.


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How to Cite
Fraser, J. (2017). The visible dead: dolmens and the landscape in Early Bronze Age Jordan. BAF-Online: Proceedings of the Berner Altorientalisches Forum, 1.
Panel 3: Localising influence and identity