Foundation for Endangered Languages
OGMIOS Newsletter # 9 : 12 September 1998
Editor: Nicholas D. M. Ostler
2. Development of the Foundation 5
3. Language Endangerment in the News 6
4. Appeals and News from Endangered Communities 8
5. Allied Societies and Activities 14
6. Overheard on the Web 17
7. Places to Go, on the Web and in the World 18
8. Forthcoming Meetings 19
9. Book Reviewed 21
10. Publications of Interest 22
This issue of Ogmios features some good news about the Chimila people of Northern Colombia. (Frank Seifart’s report on p. 8.) To give some historical background to their civilization, we show here an artefact from their ancient history. Bringing new life out of death, it stands well for the rebirth of the Chimila language in a regenerated community.
This is a Burial Urn, dated between 500 B.C. - A.D. 100. It is 60 cm high, with a 30 cm diameter. It is an instance of the Northern Andean practice known as "secondary burial," in which the bones and gold jewelry of the deceased were reburied in a large urn on the anniversary of the individual's death. Its size is a necessity to contain the leg bones but demonstrates considerable ceramic skill: it is hard to bring off so large a vessel when building by hand. Apparently, only the permanent parts of the body were needed to "grow" a new one after death; bones had to be buried, as if they were seeds being planted.
To contain these precious seeds of life was an image of fertility, here an egglike vessel representing a pregnant female. The jewelry marks her as a woman, and her distended navel and overall shape indicate pregnancy. The female body nurtures the bone/seeds for rebirth in an endlessly repeating cycle.
The urn is held at the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, (gift of William C. and Carol W. Thibadeau) and we gratefully acknowledge use of their photograph and documentation here.