Preservation

The preservation of monuments is a consequence of many other meanings. Whatever it was that made ancient monuments in history cultures and cultural memories special to people of later periods, it implied that they should remain either as they were or be adapted to new needs, but not destroyed. Some were preserved in landscape parks, but most survived as ruins in the landscape, sometimes associated with local folklore (Schuldt 1976: 149; Holtorf 1996).

It has always been one of the main aims of archaeology and heritage management to simply preserve the monuments, and it was in this spirit also that Ewald Schuldt's research was carried out (Schuldt 1972: 8). Legislation for the protection of archaeological sites existed in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern since 1804. The underlying objective is usually one which tries to conserve the present state of past remains for future generations, with the intention that they remain denk-mals, tourist attractions, and objects of further study, among other things (Lipe 1984: 9f.; Greeves 1989; Cleere 1989: 5–10; Fehr 1992). Other justifications for preservation, based on aesthetic, spiritual, or ethical considerations, are however equally possible (see Darvill 1993: 7f.). John Ruskin wrote in 1849 (1996: 323) about buildings of past times:

"The dead have still their right in them: that which they labored for, the praise of achievement or the expression of religious feeling, or whatsoever else it might be which in those buildings they intended to be permanent, we have no right to obliterate".

The preserved megalith of Schampermühle, Kreis Röbel (1996)

One example for the high regard of ancient objects in later prehistory is provided by those Neolithic objects which were found recycled as later prehistoric grave goods. Megaliths were also preserved as sites for secondary burials or reference points for traditions and imitations.

Archaeologists have often complained about the thousands of monuments that were destroyed during the last two hundred years, but they have never asked why so many ancient monuments seem to have been preserved so well over three, four or five millennia beforehand. Re-used megaliths can be considered early examples of an interest in preservation and monument protection (Randsborg 1999: 186-7). But even more sites survived that remained unused. Was that entirely because of a lack of heavy machinery for their destruction, or did people also feel a commitment not only to the distant past, the ancestors, or to future generations, but also to the stones and graves themselves which have perhaps always been surrounded by a special aura as well as folklore, both demanding respect for these sites?

In Vargatz, a memorial stone with a Latin inscription was put by F.v.Behr next to a rather strange prehistoric monument. It reads:

F.F.v.Behr
t
XIII IAN. MDCCCXCII
URSORUM HOC LOCO ULTIMUS
HUIC TUMULO
UT PEPERCERUNT URSI
PARCITE ET VOS
F.F.v.Behr
t
23th of January 1892,
the last of the bears [= Behrs] at this place;
this tumulus,
just as the bears spared it,
so you spare it too!


Literature

Cleere, Henry (1989) Introduction: the rationale of archaeological heritage management. In: H.Cleere (ed.) Archaeological Heritage Management in the Modern World, pp. 1–19. London: Unwin Hyman.

Darvill, Timothy (1993) "Can nothing compare 2 U?" Resources and philosophies in Archaeological resource management and beyond. In: H.Swain (ed.) Rescuing the historic environment. Archaeology, the Green Movement and Conservation Strategies for the British Landscape, pp. 5–8. Hertford: RESCUE, The British Archaeological Trust.

Fehr, Burkhard (1992) Nicht Museum, nicht Disneyland. Zur Problematik archäologischer Parks in Mitteleuropa. In: R.Faber & B.Kytzler (eds) Antike heute, pp. 54–62. Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann.

Greeves, Tom (1989) Archaeology and the Green movement: a case for perestroika. Antiquity 63, 659–666.

Holtorf, Cornelius J. (1996) Towards a Chronology of Megaliths: Understanding Monumental Time and Cultural Memory. Journal of European Archaeology 4, 119–152.

Lipe, William D (1984) Value and meaning in cultural resources. In: H.Cleere (ed) Approaches to the Archaeological Heritage, pp. 1–11. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Randsborg, Klavs (1999) Impressions of the Past. Early Material History in Scandinavia. Acta Archaeologica 70, 1999, 185-194. Abbreviated version published in 2000 as "The Past in the Present in the Past." Copenhagen University: Archaeological Notes 3-2000.

Ruskin, John (1996) The Lamp of Memory [1849]. In: N.S.Price, M.K.Talley jr., and A.M.Vaccaro (eds) Historical and Philosophical Issues in the Conservation of Cultural Heritage, pp. 322–323. Los Angeles: The Getty Conservation Institute.

Schuldt, Ewald (1972) Die mecklenburgischen Megalithgräber. Untersuchungen zu ihrer Architektur und Funktion. Beiträge zur Ur- und Frühgeschichte der Bezirke Rostock, Schwerin und Neubrandenburg, vol. 6. Berlin: Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften.

Schuldt, Ewald (1976) Mecklenburgs Großsteingräber—Zeugen einer uralten Kultur. Das Altertum 22(3), 149–157.

© Cornelius Holtorf