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Faculty of Archaeology contributes to 'Heritage on the Move' Overview Exhibition

The Faculty of Archaeology, in the persons of Marlena Antczak and Lennart Kruijer, had three pictures included in the exhibition 'Heritage on the Move'. The whole collection of 18 pictures can be seen from 3 December 2018 until 7 January 2019 at the Oude UB Building, Rapenburg 70, Leiden.

The opening of the 'Heritage on the Move' exhibition at the Faculty of Archaeology, Leiden University, 15 June 2017.

A colourful exhibition

In 2017 and 2018 LeidenGlobal had a call for researchers to submit a photograph with their interpretation of 'Heritage on the Move'. From the submitted photographs and related research, both years a selection was made for an offline and online exhibition. 

The very colourful exhibition now consists of 18 photographs of Leiden researchers with their vision on the subject of 'Heritage on the Move': the change of (cultural) heritage through and/or during migration. People move around the world, sometimes voluntarily and sometimes without a choice. In this process people may change, but so does the cultural heritage on the move.

The Heritage on the Move photo exhibition was unveiled at Museum Volkenkunde during the Annual LeidenGlobal Event on the 6th of June 2017 by Mark Rutgers, Dean of Humanities at Leiden University. Previous to the unveiling, the backgrounds on each photograph were explained by the contributors to the exhibition.The first edition of this exhibition was successfully shown all around Leiden (including at the Faculty of Archaeology, 15 June – 6 July 2017).

Contributed photo 1: Figurines on the Move

Figurines on the Move. Los Roques Archipelago, Venezuela. Photo by Marlena Antczak

More than 400 pottery figurines were recovered by archaeologists during systematic excavations on tiny coral islands of the Los Roques Archipelago, an atoll-shaped coral formation, located off the coast of Venezuela. Between A.D. 1200 and the European Conquest time these islands were seasonally visited by the Amerindian peoples who lived permanently on the north-central Venezuelan mainland.

Those intrepid indigenous navigators were crossing the distance of 135 km in dugout canoes, bringing with them dozens of figurines and other pottery, stone and bone artefacts. The reason of this risky and long-lasting mobility – back and forth between the continent and the oceanic islands – was the intensive exploitation of marine resources, mainly the queen conch (Lobatus gigas), marine turtles and salt.

Tying up the ‘ideological’ strings identified in the archaeological record of the Los Roques Archipelago, the interdisciplinary research demonstrated that the figurines were closely related to the animated agency of the Lobatus gigas mollusk. The human-mollusk interaction on economic grounds was inextricably intertwined with the ‘spiritual’ life of the Amerindians. The resulting ceremonialism protected the indigenous visitors from the anger of the queen conchs’ caring spirits. Pottery figurines assumed metaphorically the roles of women (as the category of social actors who were largely absent in the insular campsites) and were used in shamanic activity and rituals oriented at placating the anger of the spirits ‘protectors’ of the queen conch and other marine animals. They were manipulated by shamans together with other artefacts of clear ritualistic function, such as pipes, ocarinas, pottery rattles and burners, bone flutes, mineral ochre and oleoresins.

Today, a skillful artisan makes replicas of some of these figurines, using raw materials and methods like those that were used by the Amerindian potters some 1000 years ago. The hands of the artisan interweave the past into the present. Visitors from all over the world learn about the fascinating travels to the Los Roques islands and returning home bring with them the replicas of the figurines wrapped in rich memories about the vibrant and colorful Amerindian past.

Contributed photo 2: Traditional Mola Textile: Crafting Identity and Stitching Worlds

Traditional Mola Textile: Crafting Identity and Stitching Worlds. San Blas Archipelago. Photo by Marlena Antczak

The mola is a multi-layered colourful textile handmade by the Guna, indigenous peoples living mainly on the Caribbean islands of Panama. Mola art originated almost 200 years ago from geometric body painting, when Guna women learned the technique of reverse appliqué from missionaries and gained access to store-bought yard goods.

Today the hand-appliquéd art panels tell the tale of Guna women, their beliefs, and their worldview. Themes that are present in these fascinating fabric designs are an exuberant tropical paradise, their cultural cosmology, humour, with influences of the modern world. The ability to make an outstanding mola is a source of status among Guna women.

Today’s mola is still part of the traditional outfit of the Guna woman and an icon of her ethnic identity. The full female costume includes a patterned wrapped skirt, a red and yellow headscarf, arm and leg beads, a gold nose ring and earrings, in addition to a many-layered and finely-sewn blouse with two molagana (pl.), front and back. Each mola is unique, which is only one reason why these colourful textiles are very popular on the ethnic and art market.

Contributed photo 3: Meander-motif as Global Traveller

The meander became a global traveller. Photo by Lennart Kruijer

The meander became a global traveller from an early moment onward – already in the mid-Hellenistic period (around 150 BCE) the motif travelled as far east as northern India, where it remained a common motif for many centuries.

In Roman material culture, the meander appeared in mosaics from Britain to Northern Africa. Through its ubiquity, meanders have permeated our modern cultural memory. This is the reason that the practice of adorning buildings with this successful motif is still very much alive. Interestingly, the site of Samosata, where this particular object was found, is not yet considered global or national heritage as it was almost completely forgotten after it was excavated.

The Leiden research group ‘Innovating Objects. The Impact of Global Connections and the Formation of the Roman Empire (200-30 BCE)’ has the unique opportunity to publish many of the finds – such as this meander architectural frieze – related to the excavations from the 1980’s, combined with a re-analysis of much of the unpublished excavation reports. In this way, the heritage of the local communities becomes visible and tangible again.

About LeidenGlobal

LeidenGlobal is a partnership in which several Leiden academic and cultural institutions connect knowledge, collections, research and education with a global focus. LeidenGlobal ensures that the Leiden knowledge and activities in the field of global and regional studies are visible to a wide audience.

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