The politics and production of history on the birth of archaeology at the Cape (1827–2015)

This chapter analyses the contributions of Thomas Holden Bowker and James Henry Bowker to the early settler endeavours to create archaeological collections and knowledge. It discusses the social history of archaeology, to an entangled history of the micro-politics of knowledge as well as the emerging field of South African Empire Studies, all part of a wider endeavour to rethink South Africa’s past. Since 1835 Thomas Holden Bowker had been concerned with 1820 settlers’ compensation claims for Frontier War losses and had been known in Albany under the cognomen of “Compensation Bowker”. Screen memories are inaccurate reconstructions that obscure what really happened or depict compromises between ‘an unconscious recognition of the importance of an experience and an equally unconscious desire not to recognize the experience at all’. One who sent stone implements from Cape Colony to metropolis was James Henry Bowker. He was mainly interested in Lepidoptera and over the years became probably the leading collector of butterflies in South Africa.

Cover of the collected volume