This page establishes a connection between me as the writer of this electronic text, and you as its reader.

Here are some general comments about my work, in the order in which I have received them. Some of them have been shortened.

Do you want to contribute yourself?
Send me an email message

All bona fide contributions will be made accessible to other readers (except if you state clearly in your message that you do not wish to see your comments made public). I reserve the right to abbreviate messages. I may make comments of particular relevance accessible from other pages of this work, too.

My own extensive reply to the various comments that have been made until 2003 have been published in Internet Archaeology (Holtorf 2004).

You may download any part (or the whole) of this electronic monograph, alter it as you see fit, e.g. by deleting, adding, or annotating, and install it on your own web server (with suitable acknowledgments I hope). If you inform me about it, I will provide access to all such altered versions of my work from this page.

Reinhard Bernbeck (Bryn Mawr, USA) wrote (9/10 December 1997):

"Congrats! Impressive. I have to rethink what I do. However, ich weiss nicht ob ich von linearem Denken ins (wie heisst das noch) assoziative driften kann bzw. will. Hast Du das alles in HTML produziert, oder eine erleichternde Software genommen? Und wie hast Du das geplant? Erst die einzelnen Teile, dann zusammengefuegt? Ich staune!"

"Some more comments on your thesis. Es bringt mich schwer ins Gruebeln. Ich sehe eine Reihe Vorteile, und einige Nachteile in der Form:



Dan Mouer (Richmond, USA) wrote (14 December 1997):
"I have clicked my way through quite a bit of it. I am REALLY impressed with the order, which seems to have been conceived from the beginning as hypertext rather than being a conversion from linear text. It's great fun, and very nicely implemented."

... and later (2 March 1998):

"As it happened, I downloaded the whole thing and read it all...ALL! And I really enjoyed it. Here's the piece that I found most interesting:

'In this thesis, I am interpreting and generally proceeding by making a series of connections. This is not a unique approach and is probably part of all archaeological reasoning: archaeologists have, in their analyses and interpretations, always been connecting different finds, contexts, and sites with each other (e.g. Jacobs 1991 implicitly; Hodder 1986: chapter 7, and Mithen 1991: 103, 113 explicitly). But this electronic text is different from other archaeological accounts in that the connections suggested in the content of the argument correspond to the argument's hypermedia format, with hyperlinks such as this on every page. I argue for connections by making them.

Throughout my thesis, I am connecting many different individual pages with many others. Much of what I am trying to argue cannot be found on individual pages, but only by looking at the pages altogether. Even this point needs to be interpreted in the context of the other pages. Since connections make sense of the entities they link, I hope that my thesis as a whole can make sense of all its parts.' [from page 3.0]

Did you succeed? Yes, I think so. For so bold a venture, I think you succeeded quite well. Congratulations!"

Stefan Seufert (Hamburg, Germany) wrote (15 December 1997)
"Hier meine Bemerkungen, Fragen, Anregungen (ohne spezielle Reihenfolge, wie sie mir in den Sinn kommen):

Piet Koning (Loenen, Netherlands) wrote (22 December 1997):
"Congratulations with your work. It looks very good and I suppose it is very good. Your instruction how to handle with the links inside the boundary of your dissertation is good but the number is really gigantic. Your complete list of pages is about 150 links.

I am feeling me like an observer of a spiders web. Where is the spider and where is his fly? Some readers can jump from one site to the other without any knowledge about the structure and the context. Possible only details, Your concept is great and a positive using of a new medium. I am interesting in your evaluation after all. At this moment I will return to your dissertation there is many many to read."

Håkan Karlsson (Göteborg, Sweden) wrote (22 December 1997):
"I will comment in two steps 1) the reasonings and conclusions of the thesis. 2) the idea of electronic theses.

1) Concerning the reasonings and conclusions of the thesis I find them very appropriate and deep-penetrating. At a first glance there seem to be nothing new in your reasonings except from the source material. I mean, there are different meanings ascribed to material culture through history etc... But this first opinion is of course an illusion because your text constitute the first work that really work through the often ventilated opinion concerning material culture and contextual meanings, i.e. you do not just use the worn out phrase, but instead you give it some substance. The only exception from this tiresome use of the actual phrase is perhaps some of Mats Burströms articles where he goes from phrase to material (and back). But his works are shorter articles, while you have strenghtened the actual argument through a lengthy text. I also like your way of putting yourself into the process of the thesis through showing how it has grown from idea to thesis etc.

2) Concerning the idea of electronic theses in general I must admit that at first I did not like the idea at all. Perhaps I love books to much. When starting out with your thesis my prejudices seemed to be fulfilled. It was hard for me to receive a real overview of the work etc. (It is much easier to go back and forth in a traditional book). However, during my reading of your work I suddenly felt that the fact that it was hard for me to get an overview was not just a negative dimension. Suddenly I began to recognize other dimensions in the text as a consequence of its various starting points, through the possibility to follow up different issues and items etc. The text seemed suddenly very much more "alive" than the text in a traditional book. Even if a still prefer traditional texts (by what reasons?)I think that it is a good idea to "stand up" for the electronic version. It will undoubtedly create a node in the discourse that can be healthy when dealing with general questions of how to present archaeological thoughts etc.

To conclude: when it comes to the reasonings and the conclusions of your text, they are great. And it is good that someone at last work these themes through in a serious way. When it comes to electronic theses I still have mixed feelings. As Shakespeare said: "the first person that called a woman a rose was geniuos, the second one was an complete idiot". I mean that your text have the benefit of constituting the first attempt in this direction, but I am not sure if I like the idea of just being able to read theses in an electronic way. Anyhow, despite the fact that I haven't had the real time for a serious reading of your text, and that my comments are general to their nature, I think that you have done a great work. A work that will be important for various reasons."

Mark Johnson (Hull, U.K.) wrote (7 July 1998):

"I have had a chance to briefly look at your web site/thesis, and thought I would write with 'first' impressions, which was mainly awe at the wonderful thing you have produced: the strengths/(weaknesses) as I see it are:

1. It is visually attractive, striking the right balance I thought between inviting engagement from reader, while also conveying sense of it being a serious enterprise meant to provoke thought and reflection. The only slight problem was when using illustrated backdrop of megalith, which makes text slightly more difficult to read.

2. Gave the reader both clear guidance on how to approach the site, while being careful not to specify the path reader should choose to follow. The philosophy of why using the medium is clearly identified and linked well to substantive theoretical issues. On more critical note, however, I wondered if you might say more about hoe new technologies require developing different kinds of reading strategies than what one has developed in relation to conventional printed text: e.g. it is as much about new ways of reading as it is new ways of writing, obviously you have in mind the kind of reader that would use, make this thesis his/her own, but I suspect many readers will feel somewhat at sea on first time round the site, trying to get to grips with the new conventions, new constructions of textual production. It is not a question of alleviating their sea sickness and feeling of loss of orientation, but more about getting readers to question from the outset the different conventions under which the text is being produced and read.

3. Use of hypertext to flag up, lead reader off into various discursive spaces is great -- I liked being able to leave a text to chase off after your use of terms like identity, culture history, etc. On the more negative side -- again more a question of developing reading strategies I suspect -- some pages in the text had so many hypertext links that one easily lost the thread of particular point or sentence, because distracted by the possibilities on offer: this is partly accentuated by the fact that hypertext is highlighted in blue, which, like italics in normal text, gives the impression that those were the key words, phrases: indeed, one can see the limitations of hypertext being that by isolating words as links or even two or three words, it may privilege particular words over context of sentence and paragraphs. At some points, I thought, maybe I would have preferred a hypertext kind of footnote at the end of a paragraph, rather than simply key words, or alternately, as with references at the end of each section which I though was a great idea, to have a list of hypertexted words which the reader -- having digested the content of the page(s) could then pursue."

[In the light of Mark's remarks I changed the link colour and disabled their underlining so that the links are now much less prominent. C.H.]

"As I said these are my general first impressions. I hesitate to make more comments on substantive content, because I need to spend more time with the thesis, to follow more of the links, to develop some reading strategies, and see where I get with it."

My work was first made publicly available on an earlier URL in the spring of 2000.

Brenda Guernsey and Carolyn Smidt (University of Northern British Columbia, Canada) wrote (13 April 2000):

"We just wanted to tell you that it was very interesting to see a Doctoral thesis presented in this fashion. It challenged us to read and think in a completely new way. At first it was very confusing and hard to know where to begin, but once we started we enjoyed exploring your site. It opens up new possibilities for writing in archaeology. We feel that processing information in this way will take a lot of practice, but enhances the overall experience."

Deirdre Breton (Toronto, Canada) wrote (July 2000):

"Growing up as I did in the South of England and taking my holidays in Gloucestershire and Cornwall, I have always been fascinated by ancient structures such as abandoned Roman camps and villas, and places such as Tintagel or the Isles of Scilly (Lyonesse), with their mythical associations with King Arthur and the ancient Druids. Having played as a child among the burial barrows and small megalithic monuments on the Scilly Isles, you can imagine how thrilled I was when I came upon your work! Your reference to children playing in such spots was especially touching as I too discovered newly uncovered skeletons as I played.

What really thrilled me the most, however, was your understanding of the spiritual and psychological effect ancient structures can have on some people. I have never succeeded in explaining to anyone the strong emotional impact they have always had on me: giving a feeling of unity of time and place which links one with earlier individuals, times and cultures. The fact that your work recognizes such emotions as a significant consequence of long enduring structures makes your work exceptionally interesting to me. The construction of meaning is an apt theme for an electronic work that remains alive, continually evolving, never finished; it is a perfect concept to communicate via the internet. Your is the first work I have read that really made me understand Marshall McLuhan's statement 'The medium is the message'.

You will understand from the foregoing remarks the excitement with which I initially accessed Monumental Past. Very quickly, however, I ran into two technical difficulties that frustrated me. Entering into the spirit of discovery emphasized by the non-linear nature of the work, I wanted to follow each thought in depth and discover the branches it led to. I very quickly found that when I arrived at pages of less interest to me than those that had prompted my path, I had difficulty returning to my point of departure. In addition, on trying to retrace my steps I was often caught in loops from which I had difficulty escaping.

You have said one 'ought to embrace and work for all approaches...rather than restrict...scope.' To be sure, you want your work to be widely experienced in the way you envisioned, by the average person as well as by academics, and by old and young people alike some of whom are likely to have difficulty adapting to a non-linear environment. In addition, you might consider the academics who, after initial 'roaming', may genuinely need a way to return to a particular page on account of their own research or referencing. The addition of an index might help those who wish to search using more traditional pathways."

Paddy O'Toole (Adelaide, Australia) wrote (22 January 2001):

"I have viewed your on-line thesis and found it most impressive. I have only completed an overview, and I intend to revisit it regularly. The electronic format, I think, gives a "freshness" to graphics and layout so revisiting will be enjoyable rather than a chore. I was particularly pleased to find useful references for my field of study. I also liked your information on the history of your research etc. Congratulations on a fine piece of work."

Peter Vincent (Lancaster, UK) wrote (25 March 2001):

"Quite by chance I surfed into your extremely thought provoking web pages on Megaliths and 14 ways of interpreting them. … I must read more archaeology. I didn't know such interesting things were going on in the subject."

Phillip Segadika (Lobatse, Botswana) wrote (14 June 2001):

"I would like to add to the number of people who have been bold and humble enough to tell you that your web site is GREAT. It is great. ... I am amazed and impressed-in fact overwhelmed. I will be constantly referring to your web site this week as I try to see how your methods or suggestions would work in the African situation."

Boo Cross (Melbourne, Australia) wrote (23 August 2001):

"Wow! I have browsed through many of the pages of your thesis, and I must say that it is IMPRESSIVE!!! But I must tell you how I happened upon your work and how it has been helpful to me: I am a film student/tutor at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. I happened upon your website whilst researching the film DARK CITY (Royas, 1998). Well, you may be wondering how a film relates to your research. All I can say is that many of your theoretical considerations of Collective Memory and Archaeology/Architecture can be mapped directly onto the film, and provide a way of analysing, nee, understanding it that would have otherwise not been possible. If you haven't seen the film, please do!!! It is only through your work that I am able to understand the contribution this film makes towards Human Identity."

Stefanie Samida (Tübingen, Germany) wrote (26 October 2001):

"Erst mal möchte ich Dir sagen, daß ich es sehr gut finde, dass Du den Mut gehabt hast, das Ganze so konsequent als Hypertext umzusetzen, was bei so einer großen Arbeit ein riesieger Aufwand gewesen sein muß; vor allem die Verlinkung. Sehr gut finde ich, und das erleichtert die Arbeit ungemein, dass Du ein Glossar, Suchmoeglichkeiten und die Moeglichkeit zum Feedback eingebaut hast! Auch dass die Literatur staendig mitgeliefert wird, hat mir gut gefallen; man muss also nicht lange im Lit.-Verzeichnis "nachschlagen". Grundsätzlich fehlt mir aber ein Ueberblick, der mir von Anfang anklar macht, was mich denn alles erwartet. Ganz wichtig finde ich, eine Sitemap zu etablieren (am besten eine Menueleiste). Das wuerde die Struktur erkennen lassen und manches erleichtern. Ich kann mir aber gut vorstellen, dass Du das genau nicht willst und mehr die Variante des explorativen Erkundens der Site bevorzugst. Aber ich bin mir da ganz sicher, dass gerade dies viele Leute abhaelt, laenger auf der Site zu bleiben, denn unsere Lesegewohnheit hat sich bisher nicht veraendert, man moechte (braucht?) weiterhin Kapitel, Unterkapitel, etc. um einen ersten Ueberblick zu bekommen und auch die Argumentationsweise und Methode zu erkennen. Vielleicht solltest Du darueber noch mal nachdenken!"
[Wichtig ist zu bedenken, dass dies eine relativ spezialisierte akademische Arbeit ist, die versucht in Inhalt und Form Neuland zu betreten. Ich will also nicht so viele Leute wie moeglich erreichen, sondern lieber eine kleinere Anzahl und die dann aber ordentlich herausfordern. Die CD-Rom hat uebrigens eine Inhaltsleiste -- einer meiner Zugestaendnisse and meinen e-Verleger! C.H.]

"Mir ist vor allem beim Lit.-Verzeichnis aufgefallen, dass Du dort Kapitelnummern nennst, von denen man (ich!) beim Navigieren durch die Site nichts mitbekommt, nie das Gefuehl hat, man bewege sich durch Kapitel. Die Verlinkungen der Artikel zu den jeweiligen Kapitel finde ich sinnvoll und gut, aber damit faengt man wenig an, da man eigentlich nie (?) die Info bekommt, daß Du nach Kapiteln geschrieben hast und jetzt am Ende auf einmal Kapitelnummern zu Gesicht bekommt. Ist das nicht ein Widerspruch?"

[Das stimmt. Die Nummern beziehen sich auf die allererste Struktur, die ich meinen Notizzetteln gegeben hatte. Sie sind nur deshalb in den Seitentiteln und im Literaturverzeichnis noch vorhanden, weil es eine elegante Weise ist kurz auf Seiten zu verweisen. C.H.]

"Geographical Overview --> bei der image-map weiß man nicht zwingend, dass man da bestimmte Orte anklicken kann; es verwirrt auch, daß es bei einigen geht, bei anderen nicht --> man hat das Gefühl, dass man etwas verpasst. Einfach einen Satz fuer den eher unbedarften und weniger sicheren Internetuser, dass man hier Orte anklicken kann."

[Es ist ja schliesslich eine archaeologische Arbeit -- da muss man auch etwas entdecken koennen! C.H.]

"Vielleicht noch ein graphischer Tip. Hier auf meinem Rechner sieht man die Links ganz arg schlecht und wenn sie schon mal aktiv waren eigentlich gar nicht mehr. Ist das Absicht, um nicht evt. zweimal auf eine Seite zu gelangen? Ich wuerde jedenfalls andere Farben (die Standardfarben) benutzen."

[Das habe ich bewusst so eingerichtet, nachdem einige Leser (z.B. Mark Johnson) darauf hingewiesen haben, dass Hyperlinks in den Standardfarben wie Keywords den Text zu dominieren scheinen und zum uebermaessigen Herumklicken herausfordern. Dadurch dass sie jetzt viel unscheinbarer sind, versuche ich zu erreichen, dass sich die Leser mehr auf den Text jeder einzelnen Seite konzentrieren und dann mehr 'zufaellig' auf die hyperlinks stossen. C.H.]

"Es soll jetzt auf keinen Fall den Eindruck machen, dass ich Dein 'Werk' fuer verfehlt halte; auf gar keinen Fall! Aber ich glaube, dass Du eine extreme Umsetzung vorgenommen hast, die zum derzeitigen Zeitpunkt nur von ganz wenigen nachvollzogen werden kann, vor allem wenn sie nur wenig Ahnung im Umgang mit dem Internet haben: diese Benutzer fuehlen sich allein gelassen. Und ich finde, dem koennte man abhelfen, oder?"

A. V. Ashok (Hyderabad, India) wrote (1 November 2005):

"I am writing this letter with a special joy to express my overwhelming appreciation of your wonderful e-monograph 'The Monumental Past.' I was struck by the huge critical impact on your work of Gadamer's concept of 'effective-history' and I kept admiring the many elegant mini-essays that you have so meticulously composed for this e-presentation. As I too hold a vision of time animated by the 'effective-history' of the past, I felt compelled to contact you -- to tell you that you have in faraway India a fellow academic with a kindred philosophy of time-- that the past does not have a completed meaning which the present 'recovers' but continues in the present soliciting a 'response' that 'belongs' to its evolving meaning that further moves into a dateless future with a teleological semantics. [...] Over the years I have consistently written on the narrative aesthetics of time and memory."

Now read my work yourself!


Aldenderfer, Mark (1999) Data, Digital Ephemera, and Dead Media: Digital Publishing and Archaeological Practice. Internet Archaeology 6.

Ashok, A. V. (2006) The Remains of the Past: Cornelius Holtorf's Hermeneutics of Archaeology. In: A. V. Ashok, This Interpreted World: Consciousness, Narrative, Hermeneutics, pp. 107-113. Self published.

Barford, Paul (2004) Review of C. Holtorf, Monumental Past. Fornvännen 99, 148-50.

Costopoulos, Andre (1999) The Electronic Dissertation: A less radical approach. Internet Archaeology 6.

Fagan, Brian (2002) A Review of Monumental Past: The Life-histories of Megalithic Monuments in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (Germany). Internet Archaeology 11.

Harvey, David (2002) Review of C. Holtorf, Monumental Past. Journal of Historical Geography 28, 636-7.

Holtorf, Cornelius J. (2000) Interpreting Ancient Monuments Using Hypermedia. iNtergraph: journal of dialogic anthropology 1.

Holtorf, Cornelius (2004) The future of electronic scholarship. Internet Archaeology 15.

Jacobs, Jörn (2002) Review of C. Holtorf, Monumental Past. Ethnographisch-Archäologische Zeitschrift 43, 473-6.

Karlsson, Håkan (1999) A Postprocessual Step Forward. Lund Archaeological Review 5, 137-41.

Karlsson, Håkan (2002) Review of C. Holtorf, Monumental Past. European Journal of Archaeology 5, 260-2.

Martinón-Torres, Marcos (2002) Review of C. Holtorf, Monumental Past. Papers from the Institute of Archaeology 13, 130-6.

Samida, Stefanie (2003) Review of C. Holtorf, Monumental Past. Germania 81, 599-603.

© Cornelius Holtorf, last updated on 12 January 2007