Tag Archives: Gold

On display – Inca gold (?)

Today I’ll visit the exhibition Inca gold – treasures in the vault, an exhibition by Världskulturmuseerna (the museums of world culture) on display in Stockholm September 10th 2011– February 12th 2012.

The exhibition is on archaeological finds from South America, for example from the Incas and earlier Peruvian cultures, and tells the tale on the search for El Dorado, the golden land, and the Spanish conquest of the Incas.

About 300 objects from 15 Peruvian museums are on display. The objects are from the Incas and the cultures preceding them, the oldest from ca 2000 BC and then reaching to the 1530s AD. Besides gold there are also textiles, ceramics and mummies on display.

Not all are pleased with the exhibit, one disgruntled visitor filed a complaint to the National Consumer Agency, according towww.dagensmedia.se he said :

…an exhibition called the Inca gold. The problem is that , as far as I could see, when visiting yesterday, is that only two objects made of gold where from the Incas (though he says he might have missed yet another). All other objects were from other Peruvian cultures…

We’ll see what I think when I’ve seen it. Now I have:

There wasn’t much Inca gold but lots of interesting objects and stories. For most parts I liked this exhibit, though South American prehistory isn’t my forte it seemed a good introduction – with nice finds, good texts and a well balanced exhibit, though a bit expensive (ca 16 €). On a whole its a good exhibit well worth a visit!

I like an exhibit when I feel I learned something – and that I did. On the minus side is a few question marks – I would have liked a culture explanation on the pre-Inca cultures earlier and a more consequent mentioning on that in the info texts. Regarding the info signs for the finds – they’re often confusing and difficult to find in regards to objects.

Especially two things concerned me – first an information sign concerning Hjalmar Stolpe, a Swedish archaeologist/ethnographic (1841-1905). A picture shows him with his associates and co-workers at a South American expedition – together with finds and three craniums. It is very possible that I’ve handled one or all of them at the Osteological research laboratory in Stockholm at one time or another – but no mention is made on that material being brought to Sweden or the question regarding handling human remains, brought to at the time and being kept in Sweden currently. As much focus are on the Spanish invasion and the consequeses of that less so are focused on the late 19th and early 20th century “collectors”/researchers such as Stolpe, though they are mentioned. The next are two mummies, if I understand correctly collected by Stolpe, that are on display – they work within the exhibit and don’t feel off – but I wish there would have been a larger focus on why they are there, on the thoughts on displaying mummies and perhaps also a discussion if they should be shown at all. I don’t say they shouldn’t be but it would have been interesting with a discussion concerning that instead of questions on gold and how we look on gold today.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Magnus Reuterdahl

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Dreams of gold and riches?

A question that is frequently asked when I present myself as an archaeologist for people is; what is the nicest or most interesting thing you’ve found? By implication, they expect that you should talk about gold objects, lost cities or dinosaurs.

Though I’ve struck gold on a few occasions, it isn’t all that usual to find, other “valuables” include coins, bronzes etc. Now understand me correctly it’s wonderful to find these objects though it’s not really why I do archaeology or why it has caught my interest. It’s rather the possibility to better understand our past, how they thought and functioned, why and how they did things.

At present I participate in an excavation for Arkeologikonsult in Rissne, Stockholm. We excavate a grave field/burial ground dated to the late Viking age early middle ages. Most graves, so far, are built like Viking age burials; stone settings, mounds etc but instead of cremations the dead has been buried in coffins. At this stage the dead are still buried on the farm stead burial site and not a cemetery by a church.

If you would ask me right now what the most exacting thing I found is – I would answer two coffin nails as they currently helps me understanding a particular grave – where the coffin was put, in what direction the dead was placed etc. The answer will change from every time as you’re always in the now – the most exciting thing is most often the thing that currently is on your mind and not what shines most or is most “valuable”.

Magnus Reuterdahl

Ps. Archaeologists don not dig for dinosaur, paleontologists do! Ds.


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