Since beginning at Dumbarton Oaks in July, I’ve begun traveling intellectually south from the Maya area and into the Intermediate Area. With the goal of producing a definitive catalog of the Dumbarton Oaks collection from the Intermediate Area in the coming years, I’ve begun working with my colleagues in Pre-Columbian studies to lay the foundation for the eventual publication. The initiative is under the direction of Colin McEwan, Director of Pre-Columbian Studies, and I work along with our colleagues at the museum, Juan Antonio Murro and Miriam Doutriaux, and the temporary Pre-Columbian Studies coordinator, Katie Caruso. Special thanks also go to Gudrun Bühl, Museum Director, and Jan Ziolkowski, Director of Dumbarton Oaks, for supporting the Intermediate Area Catalog project efforts.
An obvious first issue: what do we call this area? Is Intermediate Area still a useful term? Some articles in the 2003 Dumbarton Oaks volume Gold and Power in Ancient Costa Rica, Panama, and Colombia (Quilter and Hoopes, eds.) address this issue. For example, (using Wordle), here is a cloud from the chapter by Hoopes and Fonseca Z. proposing an Isthmo-Colombian Area.
Conversations with visiting scholars, such as Dr. Richard Cooke of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and Eugenia Ibarra Rojas from the Universidad de Costa Rica, have sparked new thoughts about how to characterize this area with respect to its art and archaeological cultures.
Most of the objects from this collection are online through the Dumbarton Oaks museum, and the entries include bibliography, exhibition history, and acquisition information. I created a database building on the museum’s information to include other information such as iconographic notes, comparanda, notes from conservation assessments, and prior reports by scholars who have studied the collection.
A secondary goal of updating the object database with accurate measurements and weights for the objects is to create a new set of detailed photographs, in collaboration with the museum, to make available eventually to scholars involved with the catalog. For example, here is the file photo of PC.B.319, a Double-Figure pendant:
Finally, the photos could potentially help refine line drawings of some of the objects in the future. For example, here are my rough sketches of PC.B.303, an Avian Pendant:
Thus began the journey into Intermediate Area studies. After a month, I see a lot of exciting opportunities for this catalog, both with the pieces in the DO collection and in the broader archaeological and art historical scholarship of the area. Stay tuned for more updates as we continue documenting the objects and building the project bibliography.