Standing Stones in the Barrow Downs

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Endaewen 11/Dec/2006 at 07:55 AM
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The ominous stone described in Fog on the Barrow-Downs, where the top of the hill was sunken in. What was the most likely cause of this (and the other stones, described as "jagged teeth out of green gums"?

I think they were most likey collapsed barrows, where the central pillar is left with no roof.

NineFingered 11/Dec/2006 at 04:08 PM
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Maybe they were sort of landmarks, that through the years got covered in moss to make them look like "teeth out of green gums". I would say they were set there by the men of Numenor (or Arnor) but I have no evidence to prove it.
Qtpie 11/Dec/2006 at 06:12 PM
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Here’s the quote for the section you are mentioning:

’...;and all those hills were crowned with green mounds, and on some were standing stones, pointing upwards like jagged teeth out of green gums.’ The Fellowship of the Ring: Fog on the Barrow-Downs

I believe NineFingered nailed it, it was just a standing stone used to mark something. This is what Frodo thought about those standing stones.

’In the midst of it there stood a single stone, standing tall under the sun above, and at this hour casting no shadow. It was shapeless yet significant: like a landmark, or a guarding finger, or more like a warning.’ FoTR: Fog on the Barrow-downs

It was just a single standing stone, so I doubt it was a collapsed barrow and it was a central pillar. I say this because there would have been ruins around the stone, but yet Frdod and company didn’t sit amongst any ruins when they went up and sat next by the stone.
Vugar 11/Dec/2006 at 07:29 PM
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Those green mounds on the hills sound like bell barrows to me.  They were often surrounded by a peristalith, a close-set circle of standing stones.  That hollow circle that was mentioned in which the Hobbits ate their meal may have been another kind of barrow.  From the description, if it had been a barrow it would have most likely been a bowl barrow.

Bjorn 16/Dec/2006 at 03:36 PM
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I’d say what is being described are cairns. What are cairns? They are piles of stones built by people usually to mark a grave and/or as a rememberance of the dead; today we have tombstones. They are usually found in upplands, mountains, or hilltops. Though here they seem to be single solid stones, I’d assume the purpose is the same.
Durin of Moria 17/Dec/2006 at 06:14 PM
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I think they are more likely to be gravestones. The large stone is more likely to be the gravestone of the last king of Cardolan.
Magradhaid 18/Dec/2006 at 01:19 AM
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More like a menhir, near barrows.
Jinniver Thynne 22/Dec/2006 at 11:54 AM
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Always strikes me as odd that Tolkien described menhirs on top of barrows as this wasn’t a real world thing. If you think about it - why would you erect a huge stone of several tonnes on top of an earth grave? Menhirs are something much, much bigger than gravestones. And gravestones themselves are not put up on top of the grave but into the head - you often see sinking ones where they’ve not been put up with a good foundation.

Anyway. Stones and circles and barrows are often found together so perhaps Tolkien was simply adding his own spin on this, making the Downs unique to Middle-earth. However, as a bit of an amateur archaeologist I’d like to know about any barrows with menhirs on top of them, so please share if you know of any!
Saranna 28/Dec/2006 at 04:09 AM
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Well, menhir actually means "standing stone" as far as I recall - maybe specifically an isolated standing stone. I don’t believe these stones, which abound in the UK especially in the northern and western isles of Scotland, are actually gravestones - they have been linked in scholarship with moon worship, sun worship, weather and agricultural prediction, boundary-marking, and more prosaically, market-sites! No-one really knows but they have an air of mystery and that is what Tolkien exploits in his descriptions of the Barrow-Downs. As for central pillars, all the barrows I have been in have had rows of pillars down the sides or supporting stones with a capstone above - I don’t think I’ve seen a central pillar and would love to know of an example.
Magradhaid 28/Dec/2006 at 11:45 AM
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Maybe Tolkien put them in because of the barrows and standing-stones in Warwickshire’s Long Compton; Shippey suggests the stones at Rollright. I mean, JRRT was known to insert people and places from his youth into LotR, albeit altered, like Edith dancing in the hemlock grove, the White Ogre, Bag End, the mountains above Moria inspired by his trip to Switzerland, etc.
Arthur Weasley 29/Dec/2006 at 01:05 PM
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After reading the quotes above, I was wondering.  Would it be possible for a Landmark stone to sink into the ground bit by bit over time because they are so heavy?  Maybe the men of Arnor placed these tall "standing stones" on the tops of Barrows as warnings to stay away, and over time they partially sank into the mud so as to look like jagged teeth in gums?  Just wondering!  
Aslar Haechil 01/Jan/2007 at 12:53 PM
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Darth - It would be perfectly reasonable to expect something like that had happened. The Leaning Tower of Pisa could be thought of as an exceptionally large stone, and even having selected a site relatively stable (at least when compared to possibly being placed over barrows) we can all see that it has sunk into the earth somewhat, albeit on one side more than another.

There’s also evidence of the moai figures of Easter Island sinking into the earth over time.