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The Gardens Online

Abbey Stockstill Adds to Web-Based Garden Research Tool

Posted on May 11, 2017 12:44 PM by Bailey Trela |
The Gardens Online

There’s a paucity of gardens in North Africa, but as Abbey Stockstill’s work is showing, that doesn’t mean the histories of lives lived in tune with the region’s unique landscape haven’t left their traces.  

For her institutional project, Stockstill, a Tyler fellow at Dumbarton Oaks, has been working with the Middle East Garden Traditions project. This web-based research tool, organized and hosted by Dumbarton Oaks, offers rigorous and well-researched information on gardens in the Islamic world to scholars in the early stages of research or course planning. The project, undertaken in the main between 2004 and 2007, provides selected bibliographies, catalogs, and glossaries for a number of sites that existed under dynasties including the Ummayad, Abbasid, and Safavid, as well as in al-Andalus.

Stockstill, whose academic research centers around the urban development of Marrakesh, has added to this resource a number of North African entries, as well as essays on hydraulics and hydrology and the Atlas Mountains. Focusing on North Africa—her regional forte, and until recently a lacuna in the catalog—has led Stockstill to reevaluate, in part, the scope of the project. “There aren’t too many gardens, extant or otherwise, in North Africa, so what I’ve started working on is more of a study of how the region uses its landscape,” Stockstill explains.

That means Stockstill has been researching the complex relationships between resident populations and the North African landscape rather than individual sites. For an entry on the Atlas and Rif Mountains, for example, she has been looking at agricultural patterns, phenomena like transhumance and seasonal migration, and hydrology and water management. “There’s a city on the southern side of the High Atlas mountain range called Sijilmasa that was once a major trade route stop,” she explains. “So that entry is focusing on the role of oases in facilitating trade—and of course, that expands out into questions of how open space and water are managed. It’s a way of thinking about landscaping and ‘garden’ spaces more holistically.”

These holistic concerns extend even to the few specific, or “traditional,” sites that she’s investigating. Stockstill is currently writing about a series of funerary gardens and the phenomenon, which they typify, of “externalized funerary complexes.” In Rabat, she explains, there’s a garden called the Chellah that was once a Roman city. When the space eventually fell into ruin, it was converted in the fifteenth century into a necropolis. “The really fascinating thing about is that the open air spaces surrounding the graves have been cultivated—they were designed to be visited,” Stockstill says. “Eventually there’s a whole economy that springs up around providing spaces where pilgrims can stay when they come to receive blessings. It’s almost like a tourist industry.”

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Going Out into the Desert

John Zaleski Investigates the Syriac Ascetic Tradition

Posted on May 11, 2017 12:42 PM by Bailey Trela |
Going Out into the Desert

John Zaleski, a PhD candidate in medieval studies at Harvard, is currently a Tyler fellow in Byzantine Studies at Dumbarton Oaks. His research employs a comparative approach to examine the dynamic interactions between Christianity and Islam in the medieval Middle East. “Asceticism East of Byzantium,” his recent research report, traced his work with Syriac Christian and early Muslim ascetic literature from the seventh to ninth century.

Brief Q&A with John Zaleski

In your talk, you described the “spirituality of dehydration” and the act of denying oneself water. I’m wondering if avoiding liquids, and not just food, becomes a more potent aspect of this asceticism, and if it’s connected to any environmental factors, like a dryer climate, for instance.

Well, to start, it’s an idea that you see in later Syriac monastic sources. Generally, I’ve started to look at eighth- and ninth-century texts and the ways in which they talk about restrictions on food and water intake, and what I’ve found is that they do it in terms that are very similar to those used in the Greek monastic literature and in the commentarial literature. The basic idea is that by restricting food and drink, which of course are a constant source of temptation, you actually create physiological changes in your body which will help you attain the real goal, which is to overcome, or, more precisely, to redirect, your desires toward God. Now, whether it has anything to do with climate—I think there is sort of an indirect connection in the sense that early monasticism began in the desert, but it was as much an imaginary desert as a real one.

These monks—and this continues in the Syriac tradition—see themselves as, in their words, “going out into the desert.” The idea is that you leave society, you leave the city to go out into the desert, and that’s where you’re able to confront your own passions, as well as the demons that have been obstructing you. You’re battling both internal and external forces, and you have to go out into the desert to confront them. So it’s difficult to say, because quite literally they’re in a dry environment, but the desert is also an ideal, which they’re trying to internalize in their own bodies by “drying” out the lusts of the body. At the same time, I think we have to be careful of overplaying the desert environment aspect of it. I think it’s equally important to look at the ways these monks are interacting with people from the cities, the monasteries, and developing urban environments.

 

I was wondering if you could talk more about Muslim asceticism as an urban phenomenon, which you discussed in your talk.

Well, generally speaking, Muslim asceticism is an urban phenomenon, which stems from the fact that early Islam is predominantly urban. In Mesopotamia in the early Islamic period, for instance, the physical arrangement of the population demonstrates this. Again, Muslims are a minority, but they’re concentrated in cities, and the countryside is then primarily Christian, or pagan, or non-Muslim. You do have communities of Muslim devout that are set up away from the cities, but that’s the exception. Practicing piety, including ascetic piety, for the most part takes place within the cities, where Muslims are living.

 

Does that mean, with these urban monasteries, that you see less of an emphasis on production?

Not really. Production is still important—they become very important centers for wine production, for example. Now, just because Muslims aren’t supposed to produce wine, that doesn’t mean they don’t consume wine. It’s a common misconception that because it was against Islamic law that nobody was drinking wine. Quite the contrary, both Muslims and Christians go to the monasteries in order to drink wine. And then in the countryside you still have agricultural production going on—that continues to be important for eastern Christian monasticism.  

 

Why is it handier, or best, to work with the commentarial literature that springs up around these texts?

I think a lot of people have been interested in the connections between early Islamic and eastern Christian religious practices—theology in general, and asceticism and mysticism in particular. There’s a tendency, when people are interested in these comparisons, to compare early Islamic sources to the Greek and Latin ascetic materials that we’re more familiar with in more broad terms. The commentaries really teach us how to understand the Syriac ascetic and mystic tradition in relation to its Greek sources. In my view, Syriac asceticism, or rather monastic and ascetic Syriac authors, become by the seventh century very closely engaged with Greek traditions. Looking at how they’re explicitly commenting on, and interpreting, Greek sources allows us to talk about that, more so than if we’re just trying to talk about structural and thematic parallels between Syriac and Greek sources.

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Announcing the 2017–2018 Fellows and Project Grants

Dumbarton Oaks is pleased to announce the 2017–2018 fellows and project grants.

Fellows

Paolo Angelini, KU Leuven (Fall)
Byzantine Studies
Introduction to the Medieval Legal History of the Southern Slavs

Gideon Avni, Israel Antiquities Authority and Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Byzantine Studies
Jerusalem and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Fourth to Eleventh Century: Archaeological Research and Urban Context

Stephanos Efthymiadis, Open University of Cyprus
Byzantine Studies
Hagia Sophia of Constantinople, 537–1204: Political, Social, and Urban History

Romy Hecht, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Garden and Landscape Studies
Botanical Practices and Urban Reform in Postcolonial Santiago, Chile

Steve Kosiba, University of Minnesota
Pre-Columbian Studies
Becoming Inca: Landscape Construction and Subject Creation in Ancient Cuzco

Michael Lee, University of Virginia (Spring)
Garden and Landscape Studies
German Landscape and the Aesthetics of Administration: Peter Joseph Lenné and His Circle, 1815–1848

Jerry Moore, California State University, Dominguez Hills (Fall)
Pre-Columbian Studies
Ancient Andean Houses: Dynamics of Domestic Space in South America

Denis Ribouillault, Université de Montréal (Fall)
Garden and Landscape Studies
Gardens of the Heavens: Astronomy and the Science of Time in the Gardens of Papal Rome

Alexis Torrance, University of Notre Dame
Byzantine Studies
The Human Ideal in Byzantine Theology

Bernd Andreas Vest
Byzantine Studies
The Urban Space of Antioch-on-the-Orontes, 638–1268

Alexandra Vukovich, University of Cambridge (Spring)
Byzantine Studies
Byzantine Imitative and Appropriative Coins, Fifth to Thirteenth Century

Alan Walmsley
Byzantine Studies
Syria-Palestine in the Seventh Century: Aspects of Byzantine Continuity

Junior Fellows

Thalia Allington-Wood, University College London (Spring)
Garden and Landscape Studies
Garden Politics: Italian Renaissance Gardens in Postwar Italy

Christopher Bonura, University of California, Berkeley
Byzantine Studies
The Apocalypse of Methodius of Patara: History and Prophecy in the Christian Encounter with Islam

Gabriela Cervantes, University of Pittsburgh
Pre-Columbian Studies
The Sican Capital: Urban Organization in Pre-Columbian Peru

Mary Kelly, Tulane University
Pre-Columbian Studies
Speech Carved in Stone: Language Variation among the Ancient Lowland Maya

Scott Kennedy, Ohio State University
Byzantine Studies
Thucydides and Herodotus in the Late Antique and Byzantine Rhetorical Tradition

Maxime Lamoureux-St-Hilaire, Tulane University
Pre-Columbian Studies
Palatial Politics: The Classic Maya Royal Court at La Corona, Guatemala

Ivan Marić, University of Edinburgh
Byzantine Studies
Imperial Ideology after Iconoclasm: Negotiating the Limits of Imperial Power in Byzantium, 843–913 

Luis Muro, Stanford University
Pre-Columbian Studies
Moche Spectacles of Death: Performance, Corporality, and Political Power in the Jequetepeque Valley, Peru

Kelly Presutti, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Garden and Landscape Studies
Terroir after the Terror: Landscape and Representation in Nineteenth-Century France

Nicholas Serrano, North Carolina State University
Garden and Landscape Studies
Ideologies of Nature in the Landscape Architecture and Urban Development of the Postwar American South, 1955–1975

Shannon Steiner, Bryn Mawr College
Byzantine Studies
Byzantine Enamel and the Aesthetics of Technological Power, Ninth to Fifteenth Century

Kaja Tally-Schumacher, Cornell University (Fall)
Garden and Landscape Studies
Cultivating Empire: Transplanting and Translating Rome

William R. Tyler Fellows

Ari Caramanica
Pre-Columbian Studies
The Forgotten Landscapes of the Peruvian North Coast: Cupisnique, Moche, and Chimu Peripheral Occupation

Philip Gant
Garden and Landscape Studies
Temple Litigation and Korea’s Long Nineteenth Century

Polina Ivanova
Byzantine Studies
From Byzantium’s East to Iran’s West: Economic Change and the Rise of Cities in Medieval Asia Minor, 1000–1400

Jake Ransohoff
Byzantine Studies
Vision and Punishment: Blinding in the Byzantine World

Abbey Stockstill
Garden and Landscape Studies
Crafting an Identity: Landscape and Urbanism in Almohad Marrakech

John Zaleski
Byzantine Studies
Asceticism in the Eastern Mediterranean, Seventh through Ninth Century

Mellon Fellows in Urban Landscape Studies

Basak Durgun, George Mason University
Cultural Politics of Urban Green Spaces: The Production and Reorganization of Istanbul’s Parks and Gardens

Jacob Boswell, The Ohio State University
Changing Climates: Social Imaginaries of Climate Modification in the United States

John King, San Francisco Chronicle
New Forms of Urban Public Space and the Publics That They Serve

Maria Taylor, University of Michigan
Between Town and Country: The Soviet City-Landscape Nexus in Global Perspective

Summer Fellows

Agnieszka Brylak, University of Warsaw
Pre-Columbian Studies
Buffoons and Sorcerers: The Merging of Witchcraft and Entertainment in Colonial Sources on Prehispanic Nahuas

Beatrice Caseau, Université Paris-Sorbonne and Labex RESMED
Byzantine Studies
Kissing in Byzantium

Jean-Claude Cheynet, Université Paris-Sorbonne
Byzantine Studies
The Byzantine Family of the Chrysobergai

Rebecca Falcasantos, Providence College
Byzantine Studies
Constantinople: Ritual, Violence, and Memory in the Making of a Christian Imperial Capital

Erlend Johnson, Tulane University
Pre-Columbian Studies
The Integrative Strategies of the Classic Maya Copan Polity on Its Southeastern Frontier

Dimitri Korobeinikov, University at Albany
Byzantine Studies
Unpublished Armenian, Syriac, and Arabic Seals from the Zacos Collection: A Case Study of the Border Zone

Maria Parani, University of Cyprus
Byzantine Studies
The Date and Context of Vat. gr. 1851: The Evidence of Its Miniatures Reconsidered

Alan Ross, University of Southampton
Byzantine Studies
In Praise of Constantius: Greek Panegyrical Literature in the Early Byzantine Empire

Claudio Schiano, Università degli Studi di Bari Aldo Moro
Byzantine Studies
The Tritheist Controversy on Resurrection: New Evidence on John Philoponus’s Opponents

John Schwaller, University at Albany
Pre-Columbian Studies
The Rituals of the Aztec Month of Panquetzaliztli

Humanities Fellows

Andrés Álvarez Dávila, Dumbarton Oaks/Folger Shakespeare Library

Erica Eisen, Dumbarton Oaks/George Washington Museum and Textile Museum

Michael Kennedy-Yoon, Dumbarton Oaks/National Museum of Natural History

Adela Kim, Dumbarton Oaks/National Gallery of Art

Abby Westover, Dumbarton Oaks/Folger Shakespeare Library

Faye Zhang, Dumbarton Oaks/Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Early-Career Musician

Celil Refik Kaya, Butler School of Music, University of Texas at Austin

Project Grants

Alessandra Ricci, Koç University
Byzantine Studies
Recovering Middle Byzantine Architecture in Istanbul: Excavation of the Church at Küçükyalı

Nikolaos Tsivikis, Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Mainz
Byzantine Studies
The Early Christian Domus Ecclesia at Messene, Peloponnese

Felix Arnold, German Archaeological Institute
Garden and Landscape Studies
A Geophysical Survey of the Islamic Gardens of Córdoba

Brian Palmer, Virginia Commonwealth University
Garden and Landscape Studies
Reclaiming an Outdoor Archive

Maureece Levin, Stanford University
Garden and Landscape Studies
An Archaeology of Plant Food Production on Pingelap Atoll

Scott Hutson, University of Kentucky
Pre-Columbian Studies
Salvaging Sources of Power at Uci, Yucatan, Mexico

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The Hidden Fields of Peru

Ari Caramanica Searches for Agricultural Traces in the Pampa de Mocan

Posted on Mar 16, 2017 11:11 AM by Bailey Trela |
The Hidden Fields of Peru

Ari Caramanica, a PhD student in anthropology at Harvard University, is a Tyler fellow in Pre-Columbian Studies at Dumbarton Oaks. Caramanica’s research uses remote sensing techniques and paleobotanical analysis to reconstruct agricultural landscapes in coastal Peru. Since 2013, she has worked in the Pampa de Mocan, a desert area located on the north coast of Peru whose arid conditions conceal a rich history of agricultural activity in pre-Hispanic Peru.  

Brief Q&A with Ari Caramanica

You talked a lot about temporales, essentially temporary fields that spring up for a short period of time and are intensely cultivated. Could you describe temporales a little more, in the sense of when they spring up, and how they come into existence?

So there’s some history to the phenomenon—it’s been observed in the ethnographic record. The idea, basically, is to take advantage of a florescence of water during periodic episodes of El Niño, at a time when the inner valley infrastructure has probably been breached by major floods. Essentially, people go out into the desert margins and take advantage of this newly available resource of water. Because the soils out there are so loose, it doesn’t cause the same type of effect in terms of massive floods and mudslides.

 

You also talked about “fossil fields.” Would you mind explaining their significance?

This is another phenomenon that is pretty unique to the north coast of Peru. Because of the arid environment there, you end up with these extremely delicate but extremely legible markings on the landscape that represent ancient furrows, ancient canals—ancient agriculture. But they’re also very easily disturbed and destroyed; a lot of them are undergoing destruction as we speak, as modern urban centers continue to expand into the desert, and industrial agricultural companies and corporations are actively trying to cultivate the desert again with the help of modern water pumps.

 

How did these get discovered? In your talk you discussed aerial photography—did that aid the discovery of the fossil fields?

Aerial photography on the north coast really gets going during the Second World War, but it’s not terribly sophisticated technology—it’s a guy in a plane with a camera going along at about ten thousand meters or so. The resolution of these photos doesn’t give us the fields, but it does give us the bigger canals. So there have actually been people who looked at those pictures, saw the canals, and said, “Isn’t this amazing? Too bad it was never brought to its full fruition.” Because you can’t see the fields themselves in those photos. Some of the photos I showed during my talk were actually drone photos that we took, and you could see the fields. That’s a drone that’s being flown at a max of two hundred meters, but really more like fifty meters. But you’re absolutely right, when you’re on the ground and trying to discern what’s around you, it’s actually kind of difficult to see, if you don’t know what the patterns are.

 

Read more interviews in our ongoing series.

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Remaking Marrakesh

Abbey Stockstill Probes the Hidden History of Urban Development

Posted on Feb 07, 2017 01:55 PM by Bailey Trela |
Remaking Marrakesh

Abbey Stockstill is a sixth-year PhD candidate in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University. She received her BA in 2011 from the University of Pennsylvania in Near Eastern languages and civilizations, and is currently a Tyler fellow here at Dumbarton Oaks.

Stockstill’s research report, “Crafting an Imperial Berber Identity: The Almohads and the Urban Landscape of Marrakesh,” outlined the interactions between two successive dynasties, the Almoravids and the Almohads, on the urban development of Marrakesh. Her work focuses on the repurposing of existing architectural structures—buildings, walls, fountains—and the underlying thought processes that determined the use, and reuse, of these elements in the formative years of urban development in Marrakesh.

A Brief Q&A with Abbey Stockstill

How did you shift your research focus from urbanism and architecture to ecology and landscape?

Well, I’m trained as an architectural historian, so I didn’t really consider urbanism and landscape to be a key component of this material until I did a landscape workshop here in November 2015. John Beardsley and Anatole Tchikine had put together a workshop for graduate students, both in art history and landscape studies, to come and talk about how the two fields come together. One of the takeaways from that project was that architectural historians are always looking at this material as an object, while landscape historians think in a completely different way. After that I kept thinking about how better to integrate this material and to think about urban landscape more holistically, rather than as a compendium of different sites. I’m still working on that integration, and for this material in particular it’s just not very well served by that traditional way we look at architectural history.

 

Your talk touched upon the ways in which cities can be structured by ceremony—the qibla, for instance, has to be incorporated into the design of the city. What is the mediation between practical and ritual concerns? And was there anyone in charge of mediation, of keeping track of that?

To start, I’ve been really influenced by Paula Sanders’s work on Fatimid Cairo. She’s written how the Fatimid caliphs employed ceremony in very public ways, both as imperial propaganda and as religious performance, so there are a lot of resonances in my own work with the theory and way she addressed ceremony.

In the particular case of Marrakesh, I haven’t seen anything in the records specifically talking about individuals organizing these ceremonies, but there must have been, and that’s something I’m still working on as part of the dissertation. But I think the key to a lot of this is that it’s not entirely religious, and it’s not entirely political, either—the two were very much integrated, political legitimacy and religious authority were very much tied together within the dynastic conception of the Almohad. That’s true specifically of the Almohad, but it’s also true in general in this period and region.  

 

I find the repurposing of hallowed spaces fascinating. But are there problems that arise from this? How do you balance holding onto these traditional structures while also allowing the city to expand naturally?

One of the things that’s so unique about Marrakesh is that by the time the Almohads arrive there, it’s still a relatively new city—it had only been founded about a hundred and twenty years earlier. So there aren’t a lot of urban remains to contend with, and they really do have the room to make their own mark on the city. Now, that said, they sort of follow a precedent of systematic removal of architectural reminders of the dynasty that came before. This happens again and again and again with successive dynasties. They come in and destroy, for instance, the palaces built by the previous dynasty. But destroying mosques is a contentious topic, with worries about sacred space, and in Marrakesh this is exactly how they approach the Almoravid reminders. It’s actually unclear in the primary sources whether they completely destroy the Almoravid mosque or merely close it and let it fall into disrepair—a sort of passive destruction, if you will.

But with the palace they take very specific reminders and employ them in their own architecture. The palace itself was destroyed, but one wall remained that was the original qibla wall in the first mosque. There’s also a system of cisterns and fountains from the previous palace that they end up using for their mosque fountains, rather than trying to completely destroy those. They’re very smart about the reuse of materials. It’s a very conscious adoption of previous dynastic architectural reminders. And then, later, one of the things that I find so fascinating is that it never has this moment of being completely destroyed. The first one falls into disrepair, but we know that it exists—and the Almohad palace is destroyed but that whole area is continually rebuilt. So there’s something in the topography, or there’s something in the urban relationship between royal and public, that makes that space and that part of the city retain a connotation of sanctity and empire.

 

Read more interviews in our ongoing series.

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The Bug Market

Deirdre Moore on Cochineal Insect Cultivation in Eighteenth-Century Mexico

Posted on Nov 28, 2016 10:20 AM by Bailey Trela |
The Bug Market

Deirdre Moore grows her own bugs. On the broad, mitt-like pads of prickly pear cacti, carefully cultivated fuzzballs house the illusive insect known as the cochineal. On October 31, Moore, a 2015–17 Tyler fellow in Garden and Landscape Studies, delivered a talk entitled “Indigenous Knowledge and Breeding of Cochineal Insects in Eighteenth-Century Colonial Mexico,” which traced her research into cultivation practices and the economics of the cochineal market.

As Moore explained, cochineal were valued in centuries past for the red dye extracted from their ground-up bodies. Throughout the eighteenth century, the cochineal was aggressively grown in Mexico, especially the province of Oaxaca, which boasted one of the few climes favorable to large-scale cochineal farming. Eventually, it became one of the first truly transcontinental cash crops, dying everything from Oaxacan wool to the red coats of the British military.

Yet northern European understandings of cochineal were only hazy at best. The intelligentsia hotly debated whether the cochineal was a bug or a plant (the dried insect resembles a crunchy, long-deceased pea). Moore’s research has sought to compare Oaxacan expertise in cochineal farming with the bevy of European misunderstandings wrought by the cochineal trade.

A Brief Q&A with Deirdre Moore

What is the actual ink-making process like? There’s a long period in which it’s a really popular dye—but are there any evolutions in the process during that time?

There were three traditional ways of curing these insects. You can boil them—killing them by immersing them in hot water and then drying them—or you can toast them as you would normally toast your corn, or you can dry them in the sun. Different areas within the Oaxacan region preferred different methods -possibly for climatic reasons. During the eighteenth century, there was pressure from colonial authorities to try to standardize the way cochineal was cured. Archival records indicate that these colonial authorities preferred cochineal to be dried in the sun because they thought there was less opportunity for fraud and adulteration of the end product. But drying in the sun often ended up being a more lengthy curing process. Also, if you dry cochineal in the sun, sometimes the insects will give birth to their babies before dying. Then the product is less valuable since the weight decreases and it is mixed with baby cochineal dust. So there was a certain amount of resistance from some growers. Of course, the concerns about fraud and adulteration were also real. Some people even made fake cochineal by passing wet clay through a fine mesh, drying the result and then mixing it with cochineal to bring up the weight of their product. Various types of adulteration were common during the eighteenth century.

In terms of the actual dyeing, I was surprised when I watched the process. I assumed it would be a fairly set recipe, but it was very ad hoc. The local weaver and his wife whom I visited, ground up their dried cochineal and then appeared to add things at whim. They were mostly using baking soda as a mordant but it was not measured out with the precision one might imagine dyeing textiles would involve. They also disagreed with each other frequently about what shade of red they wanted and how much of this and how much of that to put in to dye their wool. There were a couple of hours where they were periodically adding fistfuls of things. They were changing the color as it developed. Every batch they make ends up being a different shade of red. The colors they ended up with were beautiful.

The other thing that surprised me was that they were using copper and various other metal implements, and of course metals can affect the colors of dyes. When I asked them about this they said, “No, no, not at all,” the types of metal weren’t going to have any kind of effect. But they did tell me that a women once came to visit while they were dyeing with cochineal. When they put the wool in the pot it turned brown instead of red. So they asked this woman, “Are you pregnant?” And she said yes, and they asked her to move further away. They dipped the wool again, and it turned orange. Then they asked her to leave altogether, but they said they never got a good red on that occasion. This kind of scenario does appear in a variety of texts in other places in the world—the idea that an unborn baby has an effect on the dyeing process.

 

A question that came up after your talk asked about the social aspect of cochineal production. What are the social issues or changes that spring up along with the market?  

Well, from the very beginning of the colonial period, right after the conquest in the early 1500s, a lot of social problems arose around cochineal. You have people who were previously subsistence farmers suddenly making an extraordinary amount of money selling cochineal to the Spaniards. In the tradition of the newly wealthy everywhere, they’re carrying on poorly, buying all sorts of alcohol, getting drunk on Sunday, wearing all the best clothes, and buying the best thick chocolate. There’s even an anecdote—that these get-rich-quick folk were served the thin chocolate more commonly drunk by the lower-classes—and threw it out on the ground in front of their hosts. The moral outrage from their social superiors, who recorded these behaviors, is still palpable over four centuries later.

Moving on into the eighteenth century, you see a continuation of the social problems caused by cochineal wealth. It’s a cash crop, and people are making a bit of money off it comparatively. Many farmers chose to grow less corn since cochineal was more profitable. There are entire areas where the authorities complain that locals are not growing food. With the arrival of a larger market some people stopped growing corn altogether, because they could buy food with the profit they were making off the cochineal and still have money left over. There was a manuscript that I mentioned in my talk in which a priest tells his bishop in the eighteenth century, “I can’t even get the children to come to school, because they’re all growing cochineal.” Cochineal is widely assumed to have had a significant long-term effect on the history of Oaxaca. Currently, Oaxaca remains the area of Mexico with the most indigenous people still living on their traditional lands and speaking native languages. That is less common in many other states in Mexico. In many cases people had to move away from their traditional areas much earlier on for economic reasons. Cochineal was a cash crop that was viable and lucrative even when it was grown on small plots with poor soil. In certain cases, those circumstances allowed people to stay on their land.

 

What is the spread of cochineal today? Where are they located? Where are they still being farmed?

Currently, the vast majority of cochineal is being grown in Peru, and—this is interesting—a large proportion is still coming from smaller areas of cultivation. There is a large plantation in Chile. A much smaller proportion of the global supply of cochineal comes from the Canary Islands, Botswana, and other areas. Very little comes from Mexico these days. There are two lines of thought on domesticated cochineal in Mexico. One is that it arrived in Mexico—that it evolved in Peru and somehow was transferred in the Pre-Columbian period. But one of the strongest arguments for cochineal evolving in Mexico rather than Peru is that domesticated cochineal has a lot of coevolved parasites preying on it that are local to the southern Mexican landscape. Frequently, when you see a relationship like that it indicates that the biological entity evolved over a long period of time in the same area as its parasites. This is also why it is often easier for plants and insects to flourish, or even become invasive, in areas where they are not native. Competition with a large population of parasites makes it much more difficult to grow and tend to cochineal in Mexico. There was a lot of skill involved in knowing how to grow native cochineal and deal with the many parasites of cochineal in the Mesoamerican landscape. During the early nineteenth century, people started trying to develop an industry of domesticated cochineal in Guatemala. Certain reports indicate that the venture did not succeed until native Oaxacans were sent along with the cochineal to teach the local population insect growing skills. They kind of end up stealing Oaxaca’s thunder. Guatemalan exports of cochineal surge and Oaxacan exports slump. The viability of growing cochineal in other areas eventually caused Oaxaca to lose its monopoly. I’m fascinated by the transfer process because it involved local knowledge and understanding of the life cycle and predators of cochineal.

 

Read more interviews in our ongoing series.

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Digital Humanities at Dumbarton Oaks

Tyler Fellow John Davis Creates Online Map of the D.C. Watershed

Posted on Jul 06, 2016 09:33 AM by Lain Wilson |
Digital Humanities at Dumbarton Oaks

As in so many other cities, water is everywhere in Washington, D.C.—and yet it remains largely invisible to most of us, taken for granted or ignored. But D.C.’s waterways and plumbing shape the civic, social, and even commercial lives of its residents just as much now as in the past: the Anacostia, the Potomac, the C&O Canal, Rock Creek. And the crisis in Flint, Michigan, has shown that the questions of where and how cities find their water have tremendous importance for public health, down to the last pipe. 

“It’s interesting to be able to visualize things that aren’t always apparent when you’re walking around the city,” says John Davis, Tyler fellow in Garden and Landscape Studies. “It’s a totally different conception of how the city works.” During his time at Dumbarton Oaks, Davis, a PhD candidate in history at Harvard working on the history of engineering and infrastructure, has created a digital atlas of Washington, D.C.’s watershed. The “Water Atlas,” as he calls it, shows the development of the city’s water infrastructure over time, from large features like canals to the sewer grid and water treatment facilities. 

Unlike a traditional atlas on paper, the online atlas gives the user a clearer sense of the relationship in scale between a city block and the course of an entire river. It also facilitates visualizing changes over time in layers or phases, rather than having to combine those phases into a single diagram or distribute them over several maps. Davis’s atlas further highlights how different the city’s landscape might have looked if certain rejected projects had been realized. One area of the map allows viewers to see how a proposed dam on the Rock Creek would have created an enormous reservoir in the north part of the city. 

Davis created the Water Atlas using a free open-source application called QGIS, which is widely used for cartography. By tracing information from scans of historic maps found in archives onto existing geospatial data from the United States Geographic Survey, he was able to create a single digital composite that could illustrate changes over time. Davis says that he could imagine this approach being adopted to illustrate infrastructural history for any city: “Every city has documents and maps—the exciting project is assembling the paper data and then digitizing it.” Indeed, he adds, if you had such data for multiple cities, the payoff for historians would be that you could “compare cities and their infrastructures.” 

Davis hopes that the Water Atlas will be useful for both the general public and professional researchers, and also that it might help bring the two groups together. Asked to envision an audience for the project, he describes “a range of people, from academics, or people who have an academic interest in D.C. history, to people in the D.C. area who might be curious about how their water gets to them.” It’s important for academics to invest time in projects like this, he notes, because of the likelihood that the skills of cartography and digital publication will continue to be important to future work in history and the humanities: “Digital maps increase accessibility. You don’t have to go to a library to use them.”

Davis and Dumbarton Oaks hope to release the Water Atlas to the public by the end of the summer. Please watch this space for updates about the project in the months ahead!

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Tyler Fellows in Residence

Aleksandar Shopov

Posted on Dec 13, 2013 04:55 PM by Lain Wilson |
Tyler Fellows in Residence

Aleksandar Shopov studied history at the Ss. Cyril and Methodius University in Skopje. His MA in History is from Sabancı University in Istanbul. Currently he is a PhD candidate at Harvard in the joint program of CMES and History Department. His dissertation is on the creation, transfer, and implementation of horticultural knowledge in the Eastern Mediterranean in the early Modern period. Over the past three years he has been conducting research in the manuscript libraries and archives in Turkey, Egypt, the Balkans, and France, where he worked on Ottoman-Turkish, Arabic, and Slavic sources. 

By analyzing Ottoman and Arabic horticultural manuals and documents, he is focusing on Ottoman scientific thinking about agriculture in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He is also actively involved in the preservation of one of the oldest urban agricultural spaces in the world, the Yedikule vegetable gardens within Istanbul’s city walls, which have been tilled in continuity since antiquity.

Excerpts from Aleksandar's article, published in the Turkish magazine Bir + Bir in July 2013 during the destruction of the Yedikule gardens. 

Last winter I wrote in Express about the interdependence between the silhouette of Istanbul and the now-destroyed vegetable gardens (bostans) in Langa (Yenikapi).

I referred in that article to an Ottoman archival document, dating from 1585, which stated that eighteen bostans in the Langa district belonged to the endowment (vakıf) of Suleymaniye mosque. Famous in the memories of old Istanbuliots for its Langa cucumbers, the neighborhood, which supplied the city since the sixteenth century with fresh produce, but these days is the construction site for the new Yenikapi metro station. The Suleymaniye mosque, which forms part of Istanbul's celebrates silhouette, is suffering a similar fate; soon it will be hidden by the rising, massive towers of a new metro bridge. The construction of bridges and metro stations in Istanbul is occurring on sites that signify centuries-old connections between city gardens, plants, animals, and people. As the old silhouette of the city, together with the memory of the Langa cucumbers, disappears behind the steal and concrete, it will be harder to recall that once this city depended on vegetables and fruits grown in the city proper. 

The current pollution of the Yedikule bostans (market gardens), which are among the most important agricultural sites for understanding change in Byzantine and Ottoman agricultural technology, is actually the destruction of one of the world’s oldest agricultural spaces with continuous agricultural activity since antiquity. There is much that Byzantine historians can tell us about this agricultural land and as a student in Ottoman agricultural history I can confirm that we possess hundreds of documents and maps from the Ottoman period that record the existence of agricultural land within Istanbul’s city walls at the exact place between Yedikule Gate (Yedikule kapı) and Belgrade Gate (Belgrad kapı) where market gardens today are being filled with rubble (moloz). One such example is the map by J. B. Le Chevalier (1786) which recorded the space between Yedikule and Silivri gates as Ismail Paşa bahçesi (orchard) and Horoz bahçesi.

According to an ottoman defter from 1734, in the region around the Yedikule fortress and Belgrade gate 140 seasonal gardens from western Macedonia worked in 29 bustans (vegetable gardens, orchards).

What is at risk of being lost is not only the space with its ancient water-wells and, in one of the bostans, a stable (ahır) and wooden (ahşap) house recorded in the Ottoman maps from the nineteenth century, but also a link to the past. The generation of gardeners who are able to produce hundreds of tons of vegetable and fruit in the middle of the city are currently being evicted from the Yedikule bostans have learned their gardening techniques from the older generation of Istanbul gardeners, most of them from Ottoman Macedonia and Albania. The preservation and support of this living connection to the past needs to be seen as part of the attempt to create a new kind of city.  

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Tyler Fellows in Residence

Posted on Jan 09, 2013 03:05 PM by lisaw |

In 2010, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection inaugurated a new pre-doctoral fellowship scheme, the William R. Tyler Fellowships. Eligible applicants are Harvard graduate students working on dissertations in art history, archaeology, history, or literature of the Pre-Columbian or Mediterranean/Byzantine worlds. The Fellowship funds a first year of research travel overseas and a second year in residence at Dumbarton Oaks to complete the dissertation and contribute to an institutional project that is related to the fellows’ research. We are pleased to introduce two members of the first cohort of Tyler Fellows in Byzantine Studies, who have been in residence at Dumbarton Oaks since the fall of 2012.

Konstantina Karterouli
Assimilation of Byzantine Art in the West of the Late Twelfth Century

I am a doctoral student at Harvard University’s Department of History of Art and Architecture, writing my dissertation on the assimilation of Byzantine visual properties and objects into Western art during the late twelfth century. As a second-year Tyler Fellow at Dumbarton Oaks, I also have the privilege of working with Museum Director Gudrun Bühl on an institutional project: the creation of an online exhibit that will accompany and supplement an on-site exhibition of four New Testament manuscripts in the Dumbarton Oaks Museum collection. The exhibition will open in April 2013, in conjunction with the Byzantine Studies Symposium “The New Testament in Byzantium.” All four manuscripts are being digitized for display on the Dumbarton Oaks website. Textual, iconographic, and comparative analyses of the manuscripts will accompany the online exhibit, to provide a contextual and historical perspective that will both enhance the museum experience and make these masterpieces available to distant viewers.

Jakub Kabala
Frontier Spaces: Imagining Eastern Europe, 800–1000

I am a graduate student in the Department of History at Harvard University, working on a dissertation on Slavic borderlands between the eighth and tenth centuries. Specifically, I analyze the imagination and representation of Byzantium’s Balkan frontier and the Carolingian/Ottonian eastern frontier, drawing on written sources as well as archeological finds.

As a second year Tyler Fellow, I have the opportunity to contribute to the Dumbarton Oaks online catalogue of Byzantine lead seals.  Several thousand of the 17,000 lead seals in the Dumbarton Oaks collection carry geographical information indicating the location where they were struck. My task is to create an interactive digital map of these several thousand seals, to be added to the online catalogue. The map will enable not only the localization of individual seals, but also a visualization of searches across time, space, as well as title and office of the seal owner.

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Introducing the Dumbarton Oaks Tyler Fellows

Kuba Kabala, "Frontier Spaces: Eastern Europe, 800–1000 A.D."

Posted on Jun 01, 2012 03:53 PM by lisaw |
Introducing the Dumbarton Oaks Tyler Fellows

In 2010, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection inaugurated a new pre-doctoral fellowship scheme, the William R. Tyler Fellowships. Eligible applicants are Harvard graduate students working on dissertations in art history, archaeology, history, or literature of the Pre-Columbian or Mediterranean/Byzantine worlds. The Fellowship funds a first year of research travel overseas and a second year in residence at Dumbarton Oaks to complete the dissertation and contribute to an institutional project that is related to the fellows’ research. We are pleased to introduce Kuba Kabala, who is part of the first cohort of Tyler Fellows arriving at Dumbarton Oaks in the fall of 2012. Kuba writes:

I am writing my dissertation on the emergence and development of the Slavic world between Byzantium and Latin Christendom during the ninth and tenth centuries. My research is in large part a philological and archaeological analysis of Slavic borderlands: Byzantium’s northern frontier on the one hand and the Carolingian/Ottonian eastern frontier on the other. I take a two-pronged approach. First, I investigate how Byzantines, Slavs, and Latin westerners imagined and understood borders and space in their written works, how this imagination developed over time, and how it differed across the languages of my sources: Greek, Slavonic, and Latin. Second, I am studying the ninth- and tenth-century archaeological remains of the area to trace movement, contact, and confrontation in the borderlands. I am spending 2011–2012 as a visiting scholar at the Institute of Archaeological Sciences at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe-Universität in Frankfurt am Main. Early in the fall I worked briefly on the excavation of Tarquimpol, a fortified city near the late antique Roman border in France. The library of the Römisch-Germanische Kommission has provided a great environment especially for my archaeological research. I continue to build geodatabases of archaeological finds in the Slavic borderlands, including Byzantine coin finds in ninth- and tenth-century Bulgaria, a subject I began to investigate at the Dumbarton Oaks Coins & Seals Summer School in 2011.

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Introducing the Dumbarton Oaks Tyler Fellows

Lisa Trever, "Moche Mural Painting and Practice at Pañamarca: A Study of Image Making in Ancient Peru"

Posted on May 04, 2012 05:10 PM by lisaw |
Introducing the Dumbarton Oaks Tyler Fellows

In 2010, Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection inaugurated a new pre-doctoral fellowship scheme, the William R. Tyler Fellowships. Eligible applicants are Harvard graduate students working on dissertations in art history, archaeology, history, or literature of the Pre-Columbian or Mediterranean/Byzantine worlds. Lisa Trever, the fourth of our incoming Tyler Fellows, is a Pre-Columbianist studying Moche murals. She writes:

"My dissertation project is an art historical study of the mural paintings found within the adobe temples of the late Moche center of Pañamarca (c. 600–900 CE), located on the north-central coast of Peru. Mine is a contextualized study of the relationships between painted images and architectural spaces that includes mural paintings known since the mid-twentieth century and others discovered by my dissertation fieldwork. Continued analysis in 2011–12 focuses on visual and stratigraphic analysis of the multiple, superimposed layers of painting observed on temple walls as well as residue analysis of liquids splashed on the walls as libations. The paintings of Pañamarca form part of an ancient Moche visual and ritual tradition wherein mimesis and pictorial narrative were central representational concepts. I ground this study in a discussion of the philosophical foundations of mimesis, both in the west and as might be recovered from visual and material evidence that underscores the importance of corporeality and embodiment in ancient Moche artistic and ritual practice. I interpret the Pañamarca paintings as images to be seen, experienced, and physically engaged with in real social spaces and during different moments in time. In particular this study analyzes the phenomenological effects and performative capabilities of canonical Moche mural paintings within the site’s Ceremonial Plaza, Platform II, and newly discovered Recinto de los Pilares Pintados. These temple paintings served to model ritual behavior and embody religious doctrine as they effectively participated in the instantiation of the late Moche presence at the southern frontier.

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