The Absence of 13 000 Years of Amazonian Cultural History in European Museums



Palabras clave:

Museos europeos, colecciones etnográficas, materialidad, culturas precolombinas, Amazonia


In recent decades, archaeological research has revealed Amazonia to be one of the most important centers of plant domestication in the Americas. Its pre-Columbian cultures have been transforming their environment for thousands of years. However, the deep cultural history of Amazonian peoples is mostly absent in the museums of the European capitals, in spite of their claims to be ‘World Museums’. On the other hand, they do hold a large number of ethnographic objects of the Amazon in their collections, completely disproportionate to the small number of archaeological objects. A look at the museum collections of artifacts from the Andean area reveals the exact opposite situation. Reflecting upon this finding, this article analyzes the influence and persistence of the history and ideas behind the collections by focusing on the dichotomy culture/nature, and by investigating the deliberate pre-eminence of certain material and immaterial objects over others. Given that one of the main roles of museums should be the transmission of information and the fact that Amazonia is currently threatened by developmental policies, it is crucially important to visualize the 13 000 years of cultural history of this large area, presenting the ethnographic collections together with their historical depth.