A tumulus (plural tumuli) is a mound of earth and stones raised over a grave or graves. Tumuli are also known as barrows, burial mounds, Hügelgrab or kurgans, and can be found throughout much of the world. A tumulus composed largely or entirely of stones is usually referred to as a cairn.
The word is Latin for 'mound' or 'small hill', from the PIE root *teuh2- with extended zero grade *tum-, 'to bulge, swell' also found in tumor, thumb, thigh and thousand.
Beowulf is taken to Hronesness, where he burned on a funeral pyre. During cremation, the Geats lament the death of their lord, the widow's lament being mentioned in particular, singing dirges as they circumambulate the barrow. Afterwards, a mound is built on top of a hill, overlooking the sea, and filled with treasure. A band of twelve of the best warriors ride around the barrow, singing dirges in praise of their lord.
Parallels have also been drawn to the account of Attila's burial in Jordanes' Getica. Jordanes tells that as Attila's body was lying in state, the best horsemen of the Huns circled it, as in circus games.
An Old Irish Life of Columcille reports that every funeral procession "halted at a mound called Eala, whereupon the corpse was laid, and the mourners marched thrice solemnly round the spot."
Hundreds of Thracian burial mounds are found throughout Bulgaria, including the Kazanlak and Sveshtari tombs, UNESCO World Heritage sites. Located near the ancient Thracian capital cities of Seuthopolis (of the Odrysian kingdom) and Daosdava or Helis (of the Getae), perhaps they represented royal burials. Other tombs contained offerings such as the Panagyurishte and Rogozen treasures.
At places where barrows have been constructed, they are usually found in groups (10 to 100 together), often forming several clearly distinct lines going from the west to the east. Only a few of them have been studied scientifically so far; in them, both burials by fire (with burnt ashes) and unburned skeletons have been found, even on the same site. It seems that builders of the barrows have at some time switched from burials by fire to burying of unburned corpses; however, the reason for such change is unknown. The barrows date too far back in history (700 AD to 800 AD) to contain any Christian influences - it is almost certain that all people buried in them were pagans.
As Czech barrows usually served for burials of poor villagers, only a few objects are found in them except for cheap pottery. Only one Slavic barrow is known to have contained gold.
Most of the Czech burial barrows have been damaged or destroyed by intense agriculture in the densely populated region. Those which remain are usually located in forests, especially at hilltops in remote places. Therefore there is no general knowledge about burial barrows in the Czech population.
The best Slavic barrow sites can be found near to Vitín, a small village close to České Budějovice. There are two groups of barrows close to Vitín, each containing about 80 barrows ordered in lines. Some of the barrows are as much as 2 meters high.
There are also some prehistoric burial barrows in Czech Republic, built by unknown people. Unlike Slavic barrows, they can be found all across the country, though they are scarce. Distinguishing them from Slavic ones is not an easy task for the unskilled eye.
|Auleben(Auleben grave-hill field)||Auleben||Nordhausen||Thuringia||Grave-hill field||ca. 1500 - 1200 BCE||Bronze Age, Young Stone Age|
|Benther Berg(Benther mound)||Badenstedt||Region Hannover||Lower Saxony||Hilly-grave||ca. 1800 - 1100 BCE||Nordic Old Bronze Age|
|Pöckinger Gemeindegebiet(Pöcking local community area)||Pöcking||Region München||Bavaria||grave-hill field||ca. 750 - 500 BCE||Hallstatt Age|
|Kreuzlinger Forst/Mühltal||Gauting||Region München||Bavaria||Hilly-grave||ca. 2000 - 1500 BCE||Bronze Age|
|Germanengrab (Itzehoe)(Germans Grave (Itzehoe))||Itzehoe||Kreis Steinburg||Schleswig-Holstein||Hilly-grave||ca. 1500 - 1300 BCE||Bronze Age|
|Giesen (village)||Giesen (village)||Landkreis Hildesheim||Lower Saxonia||Hilly-grave||ca. 1600 - 1200 BCE||Bronze Age|
|Glauberg||Glauburg||Wetteraukreis||Hesse||Kings graves||5. Century BCE||Early Celtic Age|
|Gräberhügelfeld von Bonstorf(Grave-hill field of Bonstorf)||Bonstorf||Landkreis Celle||Lower Saxony||grave-hill field||ca. 1500 - 1200 BCE||Bronze Age, Young Stone Age|
|Lahnberge||Marburg||Landkreis Marburg-Biedenkopf||Hesse||>200 Hilly-graves||ca. 1600 - 5th Century BCE||Middle Bronze Age (Hügelgräber Culture), Late Bronze Age (Urnfeld Culture), Iron Age (Hallstatt Culture)|
|Hohmichele||Hundersingen||Landkreis Sigmaringen||Baden-Württemberg||Kings graves||ca. 600 - 450 BCE||Hallstatt Age|
|Grave-hill of Hochdorf||Hochdorf an der Enz||Landkreis Ludwigsburg||Baden-Württemberg||Hilly-grave||5. Century BCE||Hallstatt Age|
|Grabauer Gräberfeld(Grave fields)||Grabau (Stormarn)||Kreis Stormarn||Schleswig-Holstein||9 grave-hills||6500 - 5500 BCE||Young Stone Age|
|Beckdorf||Beckdorf||Landkreis Stade||Lower Saxony||Hilly-grave|
|Lehbühl||Schlaitdorf||Landkreis Esslingen||Baden-Württemberg||Hill-grave||ca. 600 - 400 BCE||Hallstatt Age|
|Willhofer Berg (Wilhof mountain)||Willhof||Landkreis Schwandorf||Bavaria||Hilly-grave||ca. 1516 BCE||Middle Bronze Age, early La Tene Age|
|Daxberg||Daxberg (Mömbris)||Landkreis Aschaffenburg||Bavaria||Hilly-grave field||ca. 2000 - 800 BCE||Iron Age|
|Daxberg||Daxberg (Erkheim)||Landkreis Unterallgäu||Bavaria||Hilly-grave field||8. Century BCE||Iron Age|
|Höltinghausen||Höltinghausen||Landkreis Cloppenburg||Lower Saxony||Hilly-grave field|
|Hohenfelde||Hohenfelde (Mecklenburg)||Landkreis Bad Doberan||Mecklenburg-Vorpommern||7 Hilly-graves||ca. 1700 BCE||Bronze Age|
|Plankenheide||Nettetal||Kreis Viersen||North Rhine-Westphalia||Hill-grave|
|Kranzberger Forst||Kranzberg||Landkreis Freising||Bavaria||19 Hilly-graves||Bronze Age|
|Neu Quitzenow||Neu Quitzenow||Landkreis Güstrow||Mecklenburg-Vorpommern||2 Hilly-graves||ca. 1800 - 600 BCE|
|Königsgrab von Seddin||Seddin||Landkreis Prignitz||Brandenburg||Kings graves||8. Century BCE||Bronze Age|
|Pestruper Gräberfeld (Pestrup Grave fields)||Wildeshausen||Landkreis Oldenburg||Lower Saxony||~ 500 grave-hills||ca. 900 - 200 BCE||Bronze Age|
|Plaggenschale||Plaggenschale||Landkreis Osnabrück||Lower Saxony|
|Mansenberge||Groß Berßen||Landkreis Emsland||Lower Saxony||Great stone grave||2000 BCE||Megalith Culture|
|Magdalenenberg||Villingen||Schwarzwald-Baar-Kreis||Baden-Württemberg||Kings grave||ca. 616 BCE||Hallstatt Age|
|Tumulus von Nennig||Nennig||Landkreis Merzig-Wadern||Saarland||Grave-hill||Bronze Age|
|Wagengrab von Bell (Wagon grave of Bell)||Bell (Hunsrück)||Rhein-Hunsrück-Kreis||Rhineland-Palatinate||Wagon-grave||500 BCE||Hallstatt Age|
|Winckelbarg||Landkreis Stade||Lower Saxony|
|Naturschutzgebiet Schweinert(Schweinert Nature reserve)||Falkenberg||Landkreis Elbe-Elster||Brandenburg||The Great Hill-Grave Field of Middle Europe (642 Hills)||ca. 1000 BCE|
|Breitenfeld||Neuhausen ob Eck||Landkreis Tuttlingen||Baden-Württemberg||21 grave-hills||ca. 700 BCE - 450 CE||Hallstatt Age|
Burial mounds were in use until the 11th century in Scandinavia and figure heavily into Norse paganism. In their undamaged state they appear as small, man-made hillocks, though many examples have been damaged by ploughing or deliberately damaged so that little visible evidence remains.
By burning the deceased, it was believed that the person was transferred to Valhalla by the consuming force of the fire. The fire could reach temperatures of 1500 °C. The remains were covered with cobblestones and then a layer of gravel and sand and finally a thin layer of turf.
As the old Scandinavians worshiped their ancestors, the mounds were also places of worship.
Of note is King Björn's barrow in Håga (Old Norse name: Haug) near Uppsala. This location has a very strong connection with Björn at Haugi. First, the Nordic Bronze Age barrow gave its name to the location Håga ("the barrow"), which became part of the cognomen of the king, at Haugi ("at the barrow"), and interestingly, the mound was later named after the king.
Aigai is the ancient capital of Macedonia, homeland of Phillip II. During the 19th century, the tomb of Philip II was discovered in Vergina, northern Greece. The Monumental Palace is lavishly decorated with painted stuccoes and mosaics accompanying a burial ground with as many as 300 tumuli. Some tumuli date from the 11th century B.C. However, the most renowned is the royal tomb of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great, who manage to unite by force many Greek cities, architect of the Hellenistic expansion. This city lies on the northern slopes of the Pierian Mountains; Aigai has been identified as the capital of the Kingdom of Lower Macedonia. The site was inhabited continuously form the Bronze Age. By the 11th – 8th century BC it was a densely populated and rich centre. The 7th-6th centuries BC saw the premium point of its prosperity and popularity; this continued into the 5th century BC. Traditional sanctuaries were established, as were the seats of the Macedonian Kings. Royal tombs were known in antiquity to be opulent.
Excavations were first undertaken at this site by 19th century. Archaeologists L. Heuzy of France and K. Rhomaios of Greece began but were stalled by the First and Second World Wars and excavations were not resumed until approximately 1952. In the 1960s M. Andronicos was director of the excavations and the cemetery of the tumuli was investigated. The Palace of Philip II was excavated by a team from Thessaloniki University along with part of the necropolis being investigated by the Ministry of Culture. 1977 was the pivotal date that M. Andronicos brought to the attention of the world, the royal tombs in the Great Tumulus of Vergina, (ΜεγάΛα) tomb. Unfortunately, the townspeople of Vergina have put a halt to any more excavations for the time being, under the auspices of preserving their beautiful surroundings and heritage.
This is the most important of the enumerated sites with the number of specimens it has and with the dimensions of certain among them. It is in the Aegean inland of Turkey. The site is called "Bin Tepeler" (a thousand mounds in Turkish) and it is in the northwest of Salihli district of Manisa province. The site is very close to the southern shoreline of Lake Marmara (Lake Gyges or Gygaea). Bin Tepeler is a Lydian necropolis which dates back to 7th and 6th centuries B.C. These mounds are called "the pyramids of Anatolia" as there is even a giant specimen among them which attains 355 meters in diameter, 1115 meters in perimeter and 69 meters of height. According to the accounts drawn up by Herodotus, this giant tumulus belongs to the famous Lydian King Alyattes II who ruled between 619–560 B.C. There is also another mound belonging to King Gyges. The Gyges mound was excavated but the burial chamber hasn't been found yet. In this site, there are 75 tumuli dating back to Lydian period which belong to the nobility. A large number of smaller artificial mounds can also be observed in the site. There are other Lydian tumuli sites around Eşme district of Uşak province. Certain mounds in these sites had been plundered by raiders in the late 1960s and the Lydian treasures found in their burial chambers had been smuggled to United States which later had to cede them to Turkish authorities after a series of negotiations. These artifacts are now exhibited in the Archaeological Museum of Uşak.
Gordium is the capital of the Phrygian Kingdom. Its ruins are in the immediate vicinity of Polatlı district of the Turkish capital Ankara. In this site, there are approximately 80-90 tumuli which date back to Phrygian, Persian and Hellenistic periods. Only 35 tumuli were excavated so far. The mounds had been built between 8th century B.C. and 3rd or 2nd century B.C. The biggest tumulus in the site is believed to belong to the famous Phrygian King Midas. This mound had been excavated in 1957 and several bronze artifacts were collected from the wooden burial chamber. Among these artifacts, "omphalos bowls" and famous "Phrygian fibulae" (hooked needles which were used by the Phryigians to bond the clothes they wore) are especially important.
The Mount Nemrut is 86 km in the east of Adıyaman province of Turkey. It is very close to Kahta district of the same province. The mountain has, at its peak, 3050 meters of height above the sea level. A tumulus which dates back to the 1st century B.C. is situated at the peak of the mountain. This artificial mound has 150 meters of diameter and a height of 50 meters which was originally 55 meters. It belongs to the Commagene King Antiochus I Theos of Commagene who ruled between 69–40 B.C. The most interesting thing about the tumulus is that it is made of broken stone pieces which renders the excavation attempts almost impossible. The tumulus is surrounded by ceremonial terraces in the east, west and north. The east and west terraces have tremendous statues (reaching 8 to 10 meters of height) and bas reliefs of gods and goddesses from the Commagene pantheon where divine figures used to embody the Persian and Roman perceptions together.
The first burial mounds in Korea were dolmens which contained the material culture of the first millennium CE, such as bronze-ware, pottery, and other symbols of the elite of society.
The most famous tumulii in Korea, dating around 300 AD, are those left behind by the Korean Baekje, Goguryeo(Kogyuro/Koguryo), Silla, and Gaya states and are clustered around ancient capital cities in modern-day Pyongyang, Seoul, Ji'an, and Gwangju. The Goguryeo tombs, shaped like pyramids, are famous for the well-preserved wall murals like the ones at Anak Tomb No.3 which depict the culture and artistry of the people. The base of the tomb of King Gwanggaeto is 85 meters on each side, half of the size of the Great Pyramids. Goguryeo Silla tombs are most noted for the fabulous offerings that have been excavated such as delicate golden crowns and glassware and beads that probably made their way to Korea via the Silk Road.
Many indigenous Korean artifacts and culture were transmitted to the tomb builders of early Japan, such as horsetrappings, bronze mirrors, paintings and iron-ware.
The Augustine Mound is an important Mi'kmaq burial site in New Brunswick.
Mound building was a central feature of the public architecture of many Native American cultures from Chile to Minnesota. Thousands of mounds in the USA have been destroyed as a result of farming, pot-hunting, amateur and professional archaeology, road-building and construction. Surviving mounds are still found in river valleys, especially along the Mississippi, Tennessee and Ohio Rivers. Mounds were used for burial, to support residential and religious structures, to represent a shared cosmology, and to unite and demarcate community. Common forms include conical mounds, ridge-top mounds, platform mounds, and animal effigy mounds, but there are many variations. Mound building in the USA is believed to date back to at least 3400 BC in the Southeast (see Watson Brake). The Adena and Mississippian cultures are principally known for their mounds. The largest mound site north of Mexico is Cahokia, a vast World Heritage Site located just east of St. Louis, Missouri. The most visually impressive mound site (due to the area being free of trees) is in Moundville, Alabama. The largest conical burial mound can be found in Moundsville, West Virginia.