Naturwissenschaftlicher Verein Osnabrück e.V.
Megalithic tombs and associated monumental structures are sometimes interpreted as observatories through which to chart the movement of celestial objects. Stonehenge was even interpreted as a computer for the prediction of solar and lunar eclipses. The reality is probably more straightforward. In some cases the architecture of specific monuments embodies a cosmological scheme such as the passage of the sun across the heavens reflecting the passage of life itself. In other cases alignments and orientations mark key moments in the ritual calendar.
The chambers of the megalithic graves in northwest Germany are oriented mainly in an east-west direction and seem to be oriented towards the rising or setting points of the sun (or the moon, as proposed by some researchers) around the spring or autumn equinoxes. However, as the chambers were covered at least partially by earth mounds, the now free standing stones could not have served as sight lines.
One way and another it seems that most megalithic tombs in Europe are oriented towards the movements of the sun. The entrances of many tombs in Brittany (France) are oriented towards the southeast where the sun rises during the winter solstice. Most of the entrances to the dolmens in Mecklenburg and northwest Germany are aligned towards the south: the highest position of the sun in the sky. And in Ireland the passage of Newgrange is illuminated by the rising sun at the winter solstice.
The town of Osnabrück is located at the southern end of the “Straße der Megalithkultur”. This is where the North German plain merges into the Westphalian hill country and also where the distribution of the northwest German passage graves ends. In this area, many archaeological sites are associated with the names of famous military leaders from the time of the Saxon Wars (772–804 AD) such as one of the extremely rare megalithic graves made of local rock. It is known as Karlsteine. The legend goes that Karl, King of the Franks, smashed the giant capstone into three pieces with his riding crop. The wife of his adversary Widukind, the Saxon leader, is said to be buried nearby below the Gevasteine – also a Neolithic passage grave from the second half of the fourth millennium BC. There is a further unusual megalithic construction in Hekese, in the northern part of the Osnabrück Land. Two separate burial chambers are situated 53 m apart, although they obviously belong together because a row of closely set boulders has been placed between them.