Post-Conquest Materiality: Objects in the Histories of the Ottoman and Spanish Expansions

Post-Conquest Materiality: Objects in the Histories of the Ottoman and Spanish Expansions

Denise Klein / Thomas Weller, Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte (IEG), Mainz; Barbara Henning, Geschichte des Islams im östlichen Mittelmeerraum, Historisches Seminar, Johannes-Gutenberg- Universität Mainz; Richard Herzog, SFB/TRR 138 „Dynamiken der Sicherheit“, Philipps-Universität Marburg
Fand statt
In Präsenz
Vom - Bis
12.05.2023 - 13.05.2023
Simon Mallas, Graduiertenkolleg 2304 "Byzanz und die euromediterranen Kriegskulturen", Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz

This workshop, the second in a series, explored the connections between the Ottoman and Spanish histories of expansion in the early modern period and their ongoing influence. Scholars from various disciplines discussed how the conquests of the Ottomans and the Spanish changed the meaning and use of objects of previous civilizations and how, in turn, these objects shaped post-conquest societies and cultures. After a welcome by NICOLE REINHARDT (Mainz) , Director of the IEG, DENISE KLEIN (Mainz) and THOMAS WELLER (Mainz) introduced the topic of the workshop, highlighting the value of comparing both imperial expansions. By studying objects in different contexts, firstly objects in situ, secondly objects traveling and thirdly forgotten and rediscovered objects, the workshop aimed to gain insights into the effects of imperial expansion on the physical environment, power dynamics, and the preservation and transformation of materiality.

The first panel was dedicated to objects in situ. In the first talk, SUNA ÇAĞAPTAY (Istanbul) explored the transformation of Thessaloniki from Byzantine to Ottoman rule. She analyzed the spatial and visual arrangements during the early Ottoman period. The talk examined the enduring impact of spatial configurations and monuments in pre-Ottoman Thessaloniki. Two key dynamics defined the period between the initial conquest and the completion of Ottoman urban interventions in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries: the frontier state and imperial aspirations. The examination focused on significant structures like the city fortress Heptapyrgion and churches that have been converted into mosques as well as on newly built mosques, bathhouses, bedestens, and towers. According to Çağaptay, the Ottomans sought to establish an "Ottoman" city after the conquests, resulting in the survival of Byzantine and Ottoman structures that still shape the city's silhouette today.

In her story about an artifact talisman in Constantinople, ASLI NİYAZİOĞLU (Oxford) examined how the Ottomans inscribed themselves in the pre-Ottoman history of Istanbul. An anonymous Ottoman Turkish chronicle from the late 15th century recounts a tale about a medieval Maghrebi talisman-maker who created a magic talisman resembling a starling, adorned with sacred letters and powered by water from a special spring in Isfahan. This talisman attracted starlings from the Mediterranean during the olive season, bringing tons of olives to Istanbul. This unique account stood out among other talisman stories, offering a detailed insight into the integration of the occult in the city. It depicted the construction of an enchanted, cosmopolitan Istanbul after 1453, showcasing the convergence of people, knowledge, and resources across different times and places. Despite its fictional nature, this tale held great influence in the Ottoman historical imagination during the early modern era.

ANNICK BENAVIDES (Boston) explored the function and significance of South American huacas, which means revered sacred things or places in Quechua, Peru. The great stone of Conila, similar to other indigenous huacas, was re-consecrated as an apostolic relic by the Catholic Church in colonial Peru. Its carvings were interpreted as footprints of the apostle Thomas, serving as evidence of early Christianization attempts in the Americas. Benavides examined the challenges and opportunities that huacas presented to discussions on Christian providential destiny and global homogeneity. She delved into how Spanish missionaries interacted with the huacas, and their role in local religious practices. Benavides argued that appropriating certain stones as apostolic relics validated and protected Andean material culture and religiosity. The great stone of Conila remains in its original location today.

MICHAEL SCHREFFLER (Notre Dame) took the audience to Cuzco, Peru, during the Spanish conquest. The well-preserved ancient stone walls and historical sources allowed reconstructions of the city's layout when it served as the sacred center and capital of the Inca Empire. In 1534, Spanish fortune-seekers settled in Cuzco, occupying Inca buildings with minimal modifications to the city's infrastructure. Schreffler questioned the settlers' knowledge of Inca architecture and their activities within that environment. Spanish documents and visual images from the 16th century depicted Inca architecture using familiar building types (such as alcázares and mezquitas) and described their religious, political, and social functions. The establishment of a Christian settlement in the heart of Cusco obscured the former cultural center of the Incas, creating a clash of different spatial perspectives that persists to this day.

HEGHNAR WATENPAUGH (Davis) delivered a keynote lecture. Using medieval Armenian manuscripts, she showcased the museum afterlife of sacred objects in the Western Diaspora. The Armenian genocide resulted in the destruction of cultural and religious sites, and surviving remnants, like manuscripts, ended up in Western museums due to survivors or the black market. Unfortunately, these objects are often exhibited for their art-historical value, disregarding their original religious significance and the genocide's context. Tracing their provenance is challenging. Watenpaugh explored Zeytun in Cilicia in today’s eastern Turkey during a field trip to the objects' homeland. Restitution of such objects is now a crucial part of the ongoing debate. Watenpaugh emphasized the impact of violence, genocide, forced migration, and memory on these objects.

The second panel focused on traveling objects. ARMIN BERGMEIER (Leipzig) challenged Western notions of cultural continuity by studying the display of reused artifacts, spolia, in the Eastern Mediterranean. He drew upon the research of Michael Greenhalgh and Robert Ousterhout, who argued that the Ottomans lacked interest in ancient culture and disrupted cultural continuity. Bergmeier focused on architectural landmarks like the Great Mosque of Diyarbakır, the Citadel of Konya, and the Orhan Gazi Camii in Bursa, with particular emphasis on the Davutpaşa Medresesi in Istanbul. By comparing the use of spolia in the Ottoman Empire and in Italy, specifically the Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini, Bergmeier argued that the use of spolia in the premodern era highlighted the inclusive nature of cultural heritage, contradicting exclusive assumptions in modern Western interpretations.

NICHOLAS MELVANI (Mainz) explored the process of retrieving Byzantine manuscripts in Ottoman Istanbul, emphasizing their role in uncovering information about the city and the Byzantine Empire. In the 16th century, Constantinople attracted learned travelers from the Holy Roman Empire with diverse scientific interests. Scholars residing in Istanbul as part of Habsburg diplomatic delegations were captivated by these remnants and the blend of Byzantine Constantinople with Islamic Istanbul. Melvani focused on the process of recovering Byzantine manuscripts in Ottoman Istanbul and on the ways in which these books functioned as objects that conveyed information about the city and the Byzantine Empire. They later reached educational centers in Central Europe, where they were treasured as valuable sources of knowledge. There they played a crucial role in the development of humanistic studies.

THOMAS WELLER (Mainz) talked about the booty acquired by Hernán Cortés during the conquest of Mexico and its journey to Emperor Charles V's court, where it gained attention across Europe. These gifts had a specific purpose: to showcase the wealth of the newly conquered lands and the cultural expertise of their inhabitants and to legitimize Cortés conquest. In general, Charles V showed little interest in his new possessions, his focus remained on the Old World. This attitude towards New World artifacts was not unique to Charles, since very few of his contemporaries looked beyond their material value. Weller's analysis of specific artifacts, like featherwork and jewelry, demonstrates that these objects were primarily regarded as curiosities, publicly exhibited to enhance the owners' prestige and splendor within Europe's courtly society.

ASTRID WINDUS (Siegen) explored the mobility of religious objects in South America after the Spanish conquest. This process involved the exchange and circulation of sacred images and liturgical objects. Relics guarded travelers, pilgrims carried Virgin prints to shrines, and priests had mobile altars and statues. Festivals took private saint images to centers or homes. Processions showcased monstrances, crosses, and saint statues along set routes. This emergence occurred within a multicultural contact zone, where different cultural traditions intersected. The integration of saints into local religious concepts became prevalent, redefining the relationships between individuals and their spiritual figures. Windus' examples from the Andes region highlight the interplay between devotion, materiality, and mobility, shedding light on the relationships between historical actors, social groups and religious objects in the region.

The third panel dealt with forgotten and rediscovered objects. The paper by POLINA IVANOVA (Gießen) explored Amasya, a political center of the Ottoman Empire in the 15th century, and revealed how the destruction of Armenian architectural heritage and the erasure of Armenian communities distorted our understanding of post-conquest Anatolia. Focusing on St. Nicholas Church in Amasya, a Byzantine church later claimed and used by Armenians, Ivanova highlighted its significance as one of the main Christian sites in the city, facing the Ottoman grand vizier's mosque. Although the church was destroyed after the Armenian Genocide, its memory was preserved in Armenian oral and literary traditions. By using these sources, Ivanova emphasized the importance of rediscovering forgotten sites like St. Nicholas and urged a reevaluation of cities in post-conquest Ottoman Anatolia.

FİLİZ TÜTÜNCÜ ÇAĞLAR (Berlin) discussed the mechanisms and decision-making criteria that influenced the selection and exclusion of pasts to explore and objects to exhibit in the Imperial Museum in Istanbul. Therefore her presentation focused on Theodor Makridi (1872-1940), a Greek-Ottoman archaeologist who was a long-serving employee at the museum, overseeing foreign excavations within the Ottoman Empire. Based on his work, Tütüncü Çağlar examined how archaeologists perceived historical periods and material remain from different sites within the Ottoman Empire. Several European archaeological excavations played a key role in this process. Through a close examination of how archaeological knowledge was produced and how narratives about antiquities shifted over time, Tütüncü Çağlar investigated the contribution of archaeology to identity formation during the late Ottoman period.

RICHARD L. BURGER (Yale) and LUCY C. SALAZAR (Yale) focused on the so-called discovery of Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham in 1911 and its relation to the political and economic currents in Peru and the US in the early 20th century. They demonstrated the fundamental changes in the significance of Machu Picchu over the past century. The rediscovery and subsequent instrumentalization of the Inca heritage played a pivotal role in this transformation. Additionally, Machu Picchu evolved into a site of Peruvian national identification, further enhancing its significance. Finally, they showed how this Inca archaeological site was transformed into what is arguably the best-known Pre-Columbian site in the Western Hemisphere and the resulting challenges of mass tourism.

LUCREZIA MILILLO (St. Andrews) introduced the audience to the phenomenon of khipus, colorful knotted cords used for record-keeping in the Andes. Despite the impact of the Spanish conquest, this ancient tradition persists in some communities until today. However, the mysteries of the khipus remain, hindering our understanding. In her talk, she explored the material and immaterial gaps and their role in critical thinking about khipus as social and technological artifacts. For this purpose, she investigated the following questions, among others: Do the khipus embody pre-Columbian ways of thinking? Can they reveal social knowledge beyond their encoded information? How can we interpret their missing elements? Milillo showed how conservation and heritage science can help unravel the meaningful materiality of khipus.

Finally, BARBARA HENNING (Mainz) and RICHARD HERZOG (Marburg) provided a synthesis of the workshop's findings. This division into three panels (1. objects on site, 2. traveling objects, and 3. forgotten objects) proved useful and led to additional insights and questions. The post-conquest period proved to be a pivotal moment for the objects as new perspectives and inputs reshaped their meaning. Issues related to lost objects, their destruction, and the loss of associated knowledge were also addressed. The workshop not only shed light on the objects themselves but also on the knowledge associated with them and their interaction with historical actors. The perspectives of the victors and the defeated were both considered. Another important issue concerned the accessibility and ownership of objects. The fact that objects can have agencies that preserve its significance over centuries was highlighted. But the political manipulation of objects and history was also a recurring theme in the discussions. In the final discussion the participants emphasized the opportunities and challenges presented by the interdisciplinary nature of the workshop. The event allowed for interdisciplinary perspectives and fostered connections between the two regions.

Conference overview:

Nicole Reinhardt (Mainz): Welcome

Denise Klein (Mainz) / Thomas Weller (Mainz): Introduction

I Objects in Situ

Suna Çağaptay (Istanbul) : The Lost and the Living Thessaloniki: Unearthing the Resilient Layers of Ottomanization

Aslı Niyazioğlu (Oxford): Old Talismans for a New City? Antiquities of the 16th-Century Istanbul

Annick Benavides (Boston): Huaca Relics of an Apostle in the Andes: The Great Stone of Conila

Michael Schreffler (Notre Dame): Stone, Ink, and Paper in 16th-Century Cusco

II Traveling Objects

Armin Bergmeier (Leipzig): Cultural Heritage after 1453: The Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini and the Davutpaşa Medresesi in Istanbul

Nicholas Melvani (Mainz): From Istanbul to Central Europe: Byzantine Books between Three Empires

Thomas Weller (Mainz): Material Disencounters: Emperor Charles V and Cortés’ Booty

Astrid Windus (Siegen): Traveling Saints and Objects on the Move: Reflections on the Relationship between Devotion and Mobility in the Andes

III Forgotten Objects

Polina Ivanova (Giessen): When Bayezid Pasha Met St. Nicholas: Reconsidering Post-conquest Amasya through the Prism of Armenian Memory Literature

Filiz Tütüncü Çağlar (Berlin): Whose Pasts, Which Antiquities: Archaeology as a Tool of Identity-Making in the Late Ottoman Period

Richard L. Burger (Yale) / Lucy C. Salazar (Yale): Reinventing Machu Picchu: The Strange Journey of an Inca Royal Estate in 20th-Century Cusco

Lucrezia Milillo (St. Andrews): How Long is a Piece of String? On the Missing Pieces of the Khipu Puzzle

Barbara Henning (Mainz) / Richard Herzog (Marburg): Final discussion

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