NEXUS 1492. New World Encounters in a Globalizing World.

Led by Professor in Caribbean archaeology, Dr. Corinne Hofman, together with principal investigators Prof. Gareth Davies from VU University Amsterdam, Prof. Dr. Ulrik Brandes from Konstanz University, and Prof. Dr. Willem Willems also at Leiden University, Nexus 1492’s Caribbean Research Group has become one of the largest academic research project that focuses on Indigenous heritage in our region.  Corinne Hofman, a RoyalDutch Academy of Sciences KNAW- Merian Prize awardee as an excellent female scientist—sponsored by SNS REAAL Fonds, is Dean of Leiden University’s Faculty of Archaeology.

Nexus 1492 is financed by an European Union’s ERC Synergy Grant, a new form of grant that promotes collaboration between excellent researchers. The NEXUS team will consist of 40 researchers: archaeologists, geochemists, network science and heritage specialists. A large number of them are from the Caribbean.

NEXUS 1492 sheds new light on the colonization of the Caribbean, the nexus of interactions between the New and Old World. Columbus first set foot in the Caribbean in 1492. Current understandings of this event dictate that indigenous societies were enslaved and completely destroyed within 25 years of the first contact with Europeans. ‘But in fact we know very little about the colonization processes, and the transformations that indigenous societies underwent,’ says Hofman. ‘Our knowledge is based on European colonial documents, which are biased and fraught with western stereotypes. The colonization of the Caribbean was used as a model for the rest of the Americas.‘ The aim of NEXUS 1492 is to re-write the history of these colonization processes from the indigenous Caribbean perspective, using an innovative and multidisciplinary approach.

Fieldwork will take place in the Dominican Republic, Cuba and the Lesser Antilles. Using evidence from material culture, human remains and landscape development, NEXUS 1492 retraces cultural interactions between indigenous Caribbean populations, Europeans and – later – Africans. The latest methods and techniques will be applied, and new trans-disciplinary tools will be developed. Using isotope analysis, ancient DNA research, new archaeometric methods and methods from network science, human mobility and the exchange of goods and ideas within the Caribbean archipelago and to and from Europe and Africa will be investigated.

Working with local experts the project will develop sustainable heritage management strategies, and thus create a future for the past as this past is under threat from looting and illegal trade, construction development and natural disasters (e.g., climate change, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions). Placing the Caribbean’s indigenous past within a contemporary heritage agenda will increase the awareness and protection of heritage resources.

Four interlocking projects address:
·  Transformations of life ways and death ways, landscapes, and material culture through archaeological investigations.
·  Human mobility and the circulation of materials and objects through isotope geochemistry and archaeometry.
·  Socio-cultural relationships and interactions through the reconstruction of archaeological networks.
·  Heritage preservation through investigation of regulatory, legislative, and curatorial standards and community engagement efforts.

Arlene Alvarez, our Museum Director, is an affiliated PhD researcher at Leiden University, as part of the Nexus 1492 project, through the KNAW- Merian Prize awarded to Dr. Corinne Hofman.  She contributes to the Nexus project by focusing her research on access to indigenous heritage public and private collections, exploring ways to improve heritage policies, and enrich cultural identity discussions in the Dominican Republic and at a regional level.

Description adapted from the project’s website: