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Gadamer's Hermeneutics Hermeneutics is the art of understanding; it is also a wide field of different a pproaches associated with scholars such

as Friedrich Schleiermacher, Wilhelm Dil they and Martin Heidegger (Maclean 1986; see also Johnsen and Olsen 1992: 420 423, 429f.). In the context of this work, most relevant is the hermeneutics of HansGeorg Gadamer, outlined in his magnum opus Truth and Method (1975). Understanding as interpretation with a temporal distance Most importantly, Gadamer has made it abundantly clear that, to him, hermeneutic s is not a method for understanding but an attempt "to clarify the conditions in which understanding takes place" (Gadamer 1975: 263). Among these conditions ar e, crucially, prejudices and fore-meanings in the mind of the interpreter. Under standing is always interpretation, and it means to use one's own preconceptions so that the meaning of the object can really be made to speak to us (Gadamer 197 5: 358). Understanding is thus not a merely reproductive but a very productive p rocess, and interpretations will always keep changing during the reception histo ry of what is being understood. One of the main problems Gadamer is faced with is how to distinguish 'true preju dices', by which we understand, from the 'false' ones, by which we misunderstand . He suggests as a solution to develop a 'historical' self-awareness which makes conscious one's own prejudices and allows one to isolate and evaluate an object on its own: however, I am uncertain how this can work and, more importantly, ho w one can ever be certain, given Gadamer's position as a whole (see below), of l ooking at an object 'on its own' (Gadamer 1975: 266f., see also 269f.; cf. Macle an 1986: 133f.). Another important condition in which understanding takes place is temporal dista nce. For Gadamer, past and present are firmly connected and the past is not some thing that has to be painfully regained in each present: "Time is no longer primarily a gulf to be bridged, because it separates, but it is actually the supportive ground of process in which the present is rooted. Hen ce temporal distance is not something that must be overcome. This was, rather, t he naive assumption of historicism, namely that we must set ourselves within the spirit of the age, and think with its ideas and its thoughts, not with our own, and thus advance towards historical objectivity. In fact the important thing is to recognise the distance in time as a positive and productive possibility of u nderstanding. It is not a yawning abyss, but is filled with the continuity of cu stom and tradition, in the light of which all that is handed down presents itsel f to us." (Gadamer 1975: 264f.) The role of effective-history The prejudices and fore-meanings in the mind of the interpreter which make under standing possible, are not at the free disposal of the interpreter, but linked t o a 'horizon' and an 'effective history' (Wirkungsgeschichte). "Understanding is not to be thought of so much as an action of one's subjectivit y, but as the placing of oneself within a process of tradition, in which past an d present are constantly fused." (Gadamer 1975: 258) Gadamer argues that the 'true' historical object is not 'an object' at all, but a relationship which comprises both the reality of history and the reality of hi storical understanding. This he calls the 'principle of effective-history' (1975 : 267). Not only does the power of effective history determine in advance what s eems us to be worth enquiring about, but we also find that, by following the cri terion of intelligibility, the other presents itself "so much in terms of our ow n selves that there is no longer a question of self and other" (Gadamer 1975: 26 8).

An essential part of the 'hermeneutical situation' in which we find ourselves un derstanding is the 'horizon' which limits our very possibility of hermeneutical vision, or understanding. The horizon includes everything that can be seen from a particular vantage point, and nothing more. Gadamer does not, however, argue t hat for historical understanding, ultimately, we need to place ourselves into th e different horizon of a particular historical situation, because this would be an impossible and absurd task (Gadamer 1975: 269 273). We can neither leave our ow n horizon, nor would it be desirable, as the effective-history of a continuing t radition depends on constantly new assimilations and interpretations (Gadamer 19 75: 358). Gadamer denotes this boundedness to the contemporary hermeneutical sit uation by the much-(mis-)quoted expression of the 'fusion of horizons': "The projecting of the historical horizon, then, is only a phase in the process of understanding, and does not become solidified into the self-alienation of a p ast consciousness, but is overtaken by our own present horizon of understanding. In the process of understanding there takes place a real fusing of horizons, wh ich means that as the historical horizon is projected, it is simultaneously remo ved." (Gadamer 1975: 273) An anecdote told by Steven Kemper (1991: 136) may exemplify what Gadamer means: "..restoring sacred places created a 'fusion of horizons' in quite a literal sen se. I began to think about this fusion after visiting a relic mound with a Sinha la friend. When I asked him whether the place was ancient, he said 'Yes, it was restored just last year'." Following Gadamer, the aim of my research could therefore never be to reconstruc t later prehistoric meanings of monuments, but only to make them intelligible as what they are today, in our own horizon and in the light of the effective-histo ry of these (and other) monuments. All interpretations of historic objects are n ecessarily undertaken from a particular effective-historical position which dete rmines our prejudices about these objects and enables us to understand them in t he first place: "Understanding is, essentially, an effective-historical relation " (Gadamer 1975: 267). As Michael Shanks put it (1995: 31): "The ruined fragment invites us to reconstruct, to exercise the work of imaginat ion, making connections within and beyond the remains. In this way the post-hist ory of a pot is as indispensable as its pre-history. And the task is not to revi ve the dead (they are rotten and gone) or the original conditions from whose dec ay the pot remained, but to understand the pot as ruined fragment." Hence an interpretation can be made richer not only by continuous study of the o bject, but also by a better understanding of the themes and issues of its effect ive-history. This is one important rationale for investigating the reception his tory of monuments. In this work, I try to make the post-history, or effective history, of ancient m onuments such as megaliths in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern explicit, by making direct connections between later prehistoric receptions, historical and present-day rec eptions, and related case-studies from other areas and ages. Not all of these th emes and topics are necessarily contained in every present-day understanding of ancient monuments, but to explore and make use of them will enrich our understan dings of these monuments and their role in later prehistory. Gadamer's Hermeneutics in Archaeology Even though he did clearly not propose a methodology, and said so explicitly, Ha ns-Georg Gadamer's approach has in archaeology occasionally been mistaken for a methodological guideline (e.g. Hodder 1991; Tilley 1991: chapter 9; cf. Karlsson 1998: 144 147). In one case, Gadamer's hermeneutics was even employed to legitima te the use of "generalized anthropological principles and/or direct ethnohistori cal evidence" in order to gain "an entry point into meaning" (Tilley 1991: 126).

Michael Shanks and Christopher Tilley (1992: 105 107), Harald Johnsen and Bjrnar O lsen (1992: 430) as well as Mika Lavento (1995) and Hkan Karlsson (1999) have rec ently explored what a true Gadamerian hermeneutics could mean for archaeology. P ossible direct consequences for archaeology include the realisation that there are no pre-given meanings of an archaeological object which we can and should try to reconstruct, as they were in the past; an awareness of the crucial importance of effective-history and our present-day horizon and prejudices for all interpretations of archaeological objects, becaus e they make understanding possible and objects meaningful; a rejection of historical objectivism, historicism, and 'contextual archaeology' (as originally defined by Hodder, see Johnsen and Olsen 1992). Michael Shanks emphasised Gadamer's work in his account of the character of arch aeology (1992: 45): "We cannot transcend the located nature of historical understanding. It is alway s historically located itself, from the viewpoint of whoever seeks to understand , understanding in the light of subsequent events and unintended consequences of people's actions... there can be no pure reception of a 'raw' past. Rather, und erstanding an object from the past is always understanding it as something. The act of looking and sensing the object always involves an intentional act of givi ng meaning. This is a pre-judgement. And according to Gadamer, all understanding is so pre-judiced.... So the prejudice of the archaeologist's social and person al situation is not a barrier but the medium of understanding the past." Such an archaeological hermeneutics is part of what has been termed an 'interpre tive archaeology' (see Shanks and Hodder 1995: 15 17). Literature Gadamer, Hans-Georg (1975) Truth and Method. London: Sheed and Ward. Hodder, Ian (1991) Interpretive Archaeology and its role. American Antiquity 56 (1), 7-18. Johnsen, Harald and Bjrnar Olsen (1992) Hermeneutics and Archaeology: on the phil osophy of contextual archaeology. American Antiquity 57 (3), 419-436. Karlsson, Hkan (1998) Re-Thinking Archaeology. Gotarc Series B, no. 8. Gteborg: Gte borgs universitet, Arkeologiska institutionen. Karlsson, Hkan (1999) The 'play' will continue... Things and their 'effect-in-his tory', as seen in the youth-biography of a Swedish passage grave. In: A. Gustafs son and H. Karlsson (eds) Glyfer och arkeologiska rum - en vnbok till Jarl Nordbl adh, pp. 401-9. Gteborg: Gteborgs universitet, Arkeologiska institutionen. Kemper, Steven (1991) The Presence of the Past. Chronicles, Politics, and Cultur e in Sinhala Life. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press. Lavento, Mika (1995) A hermeneutical approach to archaeological truth based on H ans-Georg Gadamer's 'Truth and Method'. In: M.Tusa and T.Kirkinen (eds) Nordic T AG. The Archaeologist and His/Her Reality. Report from the fourth Nordic TAG con ference. Helsinki 1992, pp. 45-50. Helsinki Papers in Archaeology 7. University of Helsinki: Department of Archaeology. Maclean, Ian (1986) Reading and Interpretation. In: A.Jefferson and D.Robey (eds ) Modern Literary Theory. A Comparative Introduction, pp. 122-144. 2nd edition. London: Batsford. Shanks, Michael (1992) Experiencing the Past. On the Character of Archaeology. L ondon: Routledge.

Shanks, Michael (1995) Archaeological experiences and a critical romanticism. In : M.Tusa and T.Kirkinen (eds) Nordic TAG. The Archaeologist and His/Her Reality. Report from the fourth Nordic TAG conference. Helsinki 1992, pp. 17-36. Helsink i Papers in Archaeology 7. University of Helsinki: Department of Archaeology. Shanks, Michael and Ian Hodder (1995) Processual, postprocessual and interpretiv e archaeologies. In: I.Hodder, M.Shanks, A.Alexandri, V.Buchli, J.Carman, J.Last and G.Lucas (eds) Interpreting Archaeology. Finding meaning in the past, pp. 329. London: Routledge. Shanks, Michael and Christopher Tilley (1992) Re-Constructing Archaeology. Secon d edition. London: Routledge. Tilley, Christopher (1991) Material Culture and Text. The Art of Ambiguity. Lond on: Routledge.