Science and Archeology in Santiago de los Caballeros

Agreement between Leiden University of the Netherlands y Leon Center allows to obtain new and valuable data.

The scientific and technological development of the last decades is impacting in the most diverse fields, among them the archaeological investigation. Technologies that were costly in the last century, are now more affordable and others have also emerged that allow the in-depth analysis of archaeological pieces, providing new data and new looks to the collections of museums and archives. Science is a true ally of academic research in the fields of archeology and anthropology, among other disciplines.

On this side of the world, to deepen archaeological studies, collaboration with foreign institutions is essential. This is the case of the agreement between the University of Leiden and Leon Center of Santiago de los Caballeros.

The collections in history

From the beginning of the collections of pieces considered rare, strange, rare or simply exotic, the human being has shown an evident interest in grouping with unified criteria, certain objects. Over time these forms of accumulation became collections, and those who held them in collectors. Later they go to museums and galleries, where they specialized in themes, types of objects and even historical and stylistic periods.

The museum as an institution, from the middle of the 18th century, becomes a place of information, dialogue, preservation and enhancement of the cultural heritage of the people and fundamental support of the educational system.

Responsible collecting

Conserve, study and disseminate is the function of responsible collecting. The treasures of humanity contain valuable information that needs to be conveyed. Curators, researchers, museographers, educators and communicators are the ones who must speak each piece. Outside the museographic context, one piece says little: it is only when it enters into a processual dialogue, that is, as an integral part of social, historical and cultural processes, which acquires its true objectual and documentary dimension.

In the current museography, the pieces must be accompanied by an explanatory script to become a living document of a past, a social reality or a specific cultural context. At Leon Center, the archaeological pieces come from important collections donated by: Bernardo Vega, Gustavo Tavares Grieser, Rafael Esteva and Salomón Jorge. The curatorship of these collections counted on the wisdom of Dr. Marcio Veloz Maggiolo.

Convention in the framework of a project

El Leon Center He assumed the scientific study of his collection of archeology in the first months of the 2018, thanks to an agreement with the Faculty of Archeology of the University of Leiden, Holland. Leiden's consultancy gives this research an academic character of great value, due to the reputation of this European faculty and the studies it carries out in the Caribbean region, under the Nexus 1492 project.

Without omitting the contributions made by the archaeological studies of past times on the island of Santo Domingo and other parts of the Caribbean, the in-depth investigation of the archeology collection of the Leon Center, aims to confirm some theses, expand others, suggest new hypotheses and advance interpretations that complete the research carried out.

Two experts in archeology, researchers in turn from the team of the University of Leiden, Jorge Ulloa and Roberto Valcárcel, within the scope contemplated in the NEXUS 1492 Project, together with other specialists from the University of Leiden who circulate frequently through the collection and the deposit area of ​​the pieces, were integrated with the specialized personnel of the Leon Center to explore new perspectives of analysis. Nothing we should fear, because only scientific rigor allows us to reach the bottom of historical truth.

Their results could not only redefine the management of historical facts with the contributions of archeology, but also reinterpret processes, create new theories and hypotheses and generate others about the interaction between aborigines, Europeans and Africans during the colonial period.

In the same way, the archaeological collection can be better correlated with the ethnography collection of the Leon Center, and between both, the processes of historical continuity that continue to take place. Another contribution will enrich the work of cataloging already carried out by the curators in an initial phase of its value.

Visiting archaeologists

From the beginning of studies in January 2018 to the present, the archeology collection of the Leon Center It has been visited by international experts such as Dr. Raquel Carreras Rivery, specialist in heritage woods, and the architects Esteban Prieto Vicioso and Virginia Flores. Likewise, the archaeologist Adolfo López, the archeology doctor Joanna Ostapkowicz, of the University of Oxford; Arlene Álvarez, director of the Regional Museum of Archeology of Altos de Chavón; the archaeologist Manuel García Arévalo; the doctor in archeology Eduardo H. Malatesta, researcher of the University of Leiden; archaeologist Jaime Pagán of Puerto Rico, who works with the University of Leiden also, and Dr. Dominique Bonnissent, conservationist of the Ministry of Culture of France, among others, have valued this effort positively and there has been a valuable professional exchange as a result of these studies of archeology.

At all times, in accordance with international standards in the handling of collections and the customary protocols in these cases, researchers have been allowed access to the deposit of cultural assets of the institution. Likewise, the pieces are not intervened with invasive materials that negatively impact on their current state of conservation.

New technologies

Based on the archeometry, which allows to relate several study techniques on the pieces (especially non-organic), the measurement with digital caliber, use of high resolution digital photography and incorporating graphic scales, among other techniques, the study has been deepened particular of the pieces, finding new information that will enrich Dominican archeology.

The project and its phases

The project is conceived in four phases and four years, with reports by stages of the progress of the studies and a book that will gather them at the end of the project. It will be accompanied by a demonstrative exhibition of the relationship between a scientific study of a collection and its impact on museography from the information obtained.

- Phase I, Pre-Columbian. It explores how it impacted and modified the ways of life of the people on the island of Santo Domingo after 1492, especially in the northwest region.
- Phase II, African. You will enter the African presence from your objects left as historical legacy. This archeology frequently relates ethnography and archeology, since many of its expressions are living culture today.
- Phase III, Taino Culture. The Taíno, beyond its extinction, its current absence, without the tainity, is not understood the dominicanidad.
- Phase IV, Dialogue between exhibitions. The enhancement of the collection, without a doubt, will be impacted by the new information, approaches, proposals and visions, which would expand the options of the museographic character.

Responsible collecting, who has assumed the Leon Center, has among its tasks, first order and catalog your collection, register it as such and open it to the public. The step of engaging in a scientific study of it is essential, to guide the study and the many ways that their results can be used to benefit knowledge about the origins of our culture. Hence its social, educational and academic importance.

Carlos Andújar
Anthropologist. Culture Coordinator of the Leon Center