To reconnect with nature and with the past, we recently visited a few burial mounts near Ootmarsum in Twente (NL). This is a protected archaeological site and visiting this sleepy site feels as if one enters a thin place.
Here was found the ‘Man of Mander’, a shadow figure in stone (body imprint in stone) of a person almost of 2 metres tall and having no feet. He has probably been a Stone Age hunter or farmer. As a burial gift, for the Afterlife, he carried a stone arrow head. Why his feet are missing asks for careful analysing. One explanation could be that he was encouraged by his tribal members not to dwell on Earth as a spirit, instead to journey to the After Life.
This area has had its burial chambers too, or ‘hunnebedden’ in Dutch, but they have long gone. Farmers and builders were, like us, eager to re-use large stones for building a nearby church and a pigsty. This sounds grinch-worthy and it surely is, but stones have a habit of looking perfect for re-using.
Standing there, in the cold, enchanted by the place, I read a poem about the burial mounts written by Mr. B.W.A.E baron Sloet tot Olthuys (1807-1884). The poem describes how the poet stands, like we did, near the burial mounts and muses about who lies there ‘sleeping for centuries’. All the sudden the poet becomes aware of a man. The man starts asking him questions. How is to believe in one god instead of many; how it is to work for another instead as for oneself? Is the poet as free and as in harmony has he, the Stone Age hunter, feels? I loved reading this poem because of the importance of empathy and asking questions (Cognitive Archaeology). Studying the unwritten past is like looking into a mirror and seeing our modern life and conditioning reflected. Asking questions to those living in the past is making an effort to step outside oneself, which is a very difficult yet wise thing to do from time to time.