The National Museum wants to strike up a conversation with the country’s pre-Hispanic past by inaugurating a new exhibition space Tiempo sin olvido (Time without forgetting).
For Francisco Romano, archeology curator of the National Museum, the gallery invites the public to “change perceptions regarding archeology, beyond being a study solely dedicated to the search for objects.”
So, out goes the bullwhip-cracking Indiana Jones made legendary by Hollywood and who, three decades ago, inspired a generation of moviegoers to consider tomb raiding as a profession. “Archeology is dedicated to understanding human behavior, human social organizations and its changes,” remarks Romano regarding the new space that will house some of the oldest artifacts unearthed in Colombia.
While discovery is just one aspect of the archeological timeline, Tiempo sin olvido facilitates interaction with a collection that belongs to the Colombian Institute of Anthropology and History (ICANH), and sheds light on the hierarchical complexities of the Muisca, Quimbaya, and Tayrona societies, among others.
The thematic component is divided into 10 sections, emphasizing specific features of how these pre-Columbians related to the natural world, the importance they gave to rituals, and everyday objects, especially those used for farming, weaving, and trading with indigenous groups across the Americas. In essence, the room is not just a collection, but a recreation of ethnographic narratives. It takes visitors on a journey to a common past, and what it means to be human.
All the objects are new to the museum, excavated less than a decade ago, including many from Nueva Esperanza, the largest, and most complete Muisca settlement discovered in 2010 on the outskirts of Bogotá.
Nueva Esperanza was an enclosed village inhabited between 400 AD and 1,600 AD with distinctive features, such as rectangular houses (unlike circular malokas common in other communities), and a large burial ground where 600 human skeletons were buried.
Focusing on how pre-Columbians lived, rather than simply arraying a treasure trove of masks and pottery, the Museum’s space is about “feeling empathy for the past,” believes Romano. “Here, you’ll find a wonderful opportunity to recognize that ancestral heritage is socially and culturally valuable, in the same way as the present, and hopefully, the future.”
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