Hunebed D49 Schoonoord is one I had yearned to visit ever since I became aware of The Netherlands passage graves several years ago. But somehow it always eluded me. Finally, after a day visiting some of the hunebedden in and around Emmen, I decided to take Bus 21 to the Voshaar halt in the village of Schoonoord. Immediately across the road from this bus stop is a campsite (Camping het Vossehof), which is the start point for a visit to hunebed D49.
Just a few metres into the campsite, you are greeted by a green Hunebed sign which directs you to a path into the woodland on your left. Just a few paces on and you turn to the right into the 'Avenue of Trees' described by Jayne and less than 200 metres farther is D49 Schoonoord. On the way, you pass a large boulder bearing a large bronze plaque with an effigy of the Dutch archaeologist Albert van Giffen. It was Van Giffen who had the idea of restoring D49 into an idealised hunebed, and who also took charge of the reconstruction work.
Although D49 as seen today is not an authentic hunebed, but a composite combining all the features of an original hunebed, it does serve to show visitors just how a typical hunebed would have looked 5000 years ago. It is spectacular for sure, resting in a woodland clearing and surrounded by tall trees. The addition of the barrow, with its necklace of kerbstones, helps greatly in illustrating how these ancient monuments were originally conceived.
Some of the capstones on D49 are enormous, and although the sidestones are deeply seated in the sand, it is still possible to enter the passage, though not that part below the mound, which is fenced off by a sturdy steel barrier.
Visiting D49 lived up to all my expectations. No other hunebed quite ticks all the boxes. If there is one hunebed that everyone should visit, this is it!
Last time I was in Drenthe, I had only a crappy map to work from so completely failed to find this one, which I desperately wanted to see. It turns out I had been only about 200 metres from the monument which lies in an intimate glade in dense woodland. Happily, this time, with Julian's instructions in TME we found it immediately.
Even the approach is thrilling, down an avenue of trees, like walking into an early van Gogh drawing. And at the end of the avenue lies the prize! Today, covered with snow, it looked like a giant Christmas cake… and equally delicious and fulfilling. This is different from other hunebedden in that part of the mound has been rebuilt, so it gives a really good idea of what they might have once looked like. It reminded me of an over-sized Scillionian cairn.
I sat on the ice, my frozen arse forcing me to make a VERY quick sketch.
The more I looked, the more I loved it. This place is magic. If you come to Drenthe, make sure you see this one.
Hunebed D49 Schoonoord is known as the Papeloze Kerk (church without a priest), a reference to the fact that, in the 16th century, during the Eighty Years War, the Catholic heirarchy forbade Protestants to worship openly. As a result, the Protestants resorted to holding so-called Hagespreken—secret church services held in the open air—often conducted by a lay-preacher rather than a priest, hence the name.
It was rumoured that such services were conducted at the site of the Schoonoord hunebed, which in those days was not surrounded by trees, but was situated in the open treeless heathland of Ellertsveld. The hunebed provided a relatively high look-out point which meant that any uninvited intruders could be detected long before they arrived. It is reputed that Calvinist open air conventicles were held here by the Reverend Menso Alting, although there is no written evidence of this.
The name Papeloze Kerk seems to have been derived from 16th century open-air conventicles held in northern France by the church reformer Jean Calvin, which he called Église Sans Pape. However, the apellation Papeloze Kerk for hunebed D49 only seems to have come into use during the early 19th century.
Nowadays, hunebed D49 is visited yearly for a re-enactment of the hagepreken. Local protestants don historical outfits and a service with music is held around and on top of the dolmen. The service is organised by a historical fellowship, Die Luyden van ‘t Hooge Veene, and the Hervormde en Gereformeerde Kerk. Instead of preaching against the Catholic church of Rome, as was the custom in the sixteenth century, the modern service preaches on fundamental Christianity. The service is held in the regional Drents dialect.
When Professor A E van Giffen first visited hunebed D49 in 1919 it was in a very poor state. Standing in an open, treeless setting, it had been ravaged by stone robbing during the 18th and 19th centuries to such an extent that only nine stones remained, only one of them a capstone (the stolen stones would probably have been used to reinforce coastal defences). Following further research in 1925, Van Giffen came up with the idea of undertaking a complete reconstruction of hunebed D49, to create, for educational purposes, an idealised hunebed as it would have appeared when originally built 5000 years ago. To show how the hunebed looked both with and without a covering mound, two-thirds of the monument were to be hidden under a barrow.
Although details of the plan were finalised by 1934, it was not until a full excavation of the dolmen had been undertaken in 1958 to gather as much information as possible on the original positions and number of stones that the matter was finally progressed. A total of four capstones, two sidestones, ten kerbstones, four passage sidestones and a passage capstone were brought to the site in order to reconstruct the monument, many of them originating from the destroyed hunebed D33 Valtherveld. Among the reasons for selecting D49 for this reconstruction, apart from its original sorry state, was the fact that it was now secluded in a State Forest and that the area could be easily closed off from the public by fencing.
D49 was reconstructed with new flooring and dry masonry between the stones, and two thirds of the passage was buried under a mound. Inside the passage, a fence prevented access to the crypt, where some facsimiles of Funnel Beaker pottery, based on discoveries made at D19 Drouwen were placed. Unfortunately, these were so realistic that they were stolen. When some of them turned up again, they were acquired by the Harderwijks Museum in 1965 in the belief that they were original Funnel Beaker artefacts.
Once reconstruction was completed in 1959, visitors had for several years to pay an entrance fee to visit the monument, which was only allowed with a guide. D49 is the only hunebed in the Netherlands that shows what a hunebed originally looked like.