Avinoam Shalem

Objects as Carriers of Real or Contrived Memories in a Cross-Cultural Context: The Case of the Medieval Diplomatic Presents and Trophies of Wars

Lecture given at the conference "Migrating Images"

Avinoam Shalem

Avinoam Shalem


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In the Middle Ages, as well as today, the exchange of presents between different royal courts was, and is, part of the unwritten diplomatic code. Medieval documents usually tell us how eager were kings to receive these presents and even of their specific requests for particular articles or commodities. Unfortunately the sources rarely elaborate on the varied marvels, rare and unusual presents which were brought over or sent by one ruler to another. The presents are usually listed and, in some cases, typologically organised.
It is quite clear that the exchange of royal presents was first and foremost a distinctive gesture by which friendship and goodwill were expressed. But presents might have also served more sophisticated purposes. In this study a special emphasis is put on the exchange and migration of royal gifts in the Middle Ages. Moreover, a special emphasis is placed on interpreting the mobility of these artefacts as a method, by which historical information, real or contrived was transmitted. It mainly discusses those artefacts, which I term as “relics of the past” namely specific objects which clearly function as aide-memoires and help to keep specific events of our collective cultural memory green, in a modus, in which a particular historical myth or account is constantly perpetuated. The migration of such “relics of the past” from on e cultural sphere to another is therefore extremely interesting for these items are the carriers of cultural knowledge.

Artists / Authors



The House of World Cultures




The House of World Cultures, John-Foster-Dulles-Allee 10, 10557 Berlin, Germany


» http://www.hkw.de/de…ngimages/c_index.html


, Jan 26, 2004



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