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NEOLITHIC PORTAL OR DOLMEN TOMBS

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I went to a lecture recently (Wednesday 10th December 2014) given to members of the Royal Archaeological Institute (RAI) at Burlington house in Piccadilly. The lecture was entitled: 'Building the great dolmens: monumental construction in the early Neolithic of Britain and Ireland' and was presented by Dr Vicki Cummings from the University of Central Lancashire. Dolmens (old term: 'cromlechs') are neolithic structures typically consisting of a single large capstone held aloft by three smaller upright stones. The following is my recollection with additional observations, thoughts and ideas. I apologise in advance to Dr Cummings for any errors in my recollection, understanding, or interpretation. She began by stressing the shift of emphasis away from the traditional names of 'portal tombs' or 'dolmen tombs', to simply dolmens (for reasons explained later). She also made reference to chamber tombs, and the distribution of dolmens across Britain and Ireland and over time. Geographically, the dolmens that survive to the present (and have been identified) seem to cluster in Kent, Cornwall, Pembrokeshire, Anglesey and then more prolifically around Ireland. Dr Cummings made the point that the dolmen tradition was imported from the continent. The distribution on her map, revealed that almost all are 'coastal', which suggests the neolithic builders were ...