The Daily Herald reports that Professor of Caribbean Archaeology at Leiden University Corinne Hofman received the prestigious Academy Merian 2013 Award on Thursday, for researchers who are women, given by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences KNAW in Amsterdam, for her extensive archaeology research in the Caribbean, which started on Saba.
Hofman began excavating sites in Saba in the 1980s. Since her first fieldwork on Saba in 1987, she and her partner, Professor Menno Hoogland, have returned to the island multiple times in the last three decades to continue their research in areas like Kelbey’s Ridge, Spring Bay, Spring Bay Flat and Plum Piece. In fact, she did her PhD dissertation on Saba’s native pre-Columbia population (400-1450 AD).
Saba is not the only island where she did fieldwork to tell the story of the colonisation of the American continent from the perspective of its indigenous population. She has done field work throughout the Caribbean including St. Eustatius, St. Maarten/St. Martin, Antigua, Guadeloupe, St. Lucia, Martinique, St. Vincent, Curaçao, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Hofman has been driven by the idea that the Caribbean islands and parts of the mainland of Latin and North America were once linked by a network in which people, goods and ideas circulated freely. She works with research groups in other disciplines specialising in isotopes and DNA analysis, network theory, history and ethnography.
Too little is known about the Amerindians that inhabited the Caribbean islands for 3,000 years before Europeans arrived in the region. Most information is written from a European perspective that gives a biased view, said Hofman in her address after receiving the Merian award. She and her research team hope to achieve a rewriting of the history books, also those used at schools, to properly reflect the story of this group of native island inhabitants.
The jury of the KNAW Merian Award was deeply impressed by the way in which Hofman developed her discipline and put it prominently on the international map. “Her authoritative, innovative research makes her an inspiring role model. She also actively encourages talented women to compete for positions in research and academia,” stated jury chairlady Professor Naomi Ellemers. Under Hofman’s leadership, Leiden’s Caribbean Research Group has become the biggest and most successful in the world in this field.
Professor Hofman was also appointed Dean of the Faculty of Archaeology at Leiden in September 2013. Established in 2009 and made possible by funding from SNS REAAL Fonds, the Academy Merian Prize is awarded every other year to an outstanding woman researcher who inspires others to embark on a career in science or scholarship. Hofman has decided not to keep the 50,000 euros attached to the Academy Merian Prize, but to make the amount available to give promising young women researchers from the Caribbean an opportunity to obtain a doctorate within one of her projects.
Hofman has been given various grants from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research NWO over the years to carry out her research in the Caribbean. She recently received European funding that will allow her to work together with three other research groups in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium on a new, large-scale multidisciplinary study called Nexus 1492: New World Encounters in a Globalising World. Nexus 1492 explores the first cultural encounters between European colonisers and the New World from the perspective of the indigenous population. Hofman’s aim in her research is to raise the historical consciousness and self-awareness of the current population of the Caribbean. Since 2013, Hofman has been a member of the National Committee for the Netherlands of the United Nations Environmental and Scientific Organisation UNESCO, and a member of the Caribbean Netherlands Science Institute Steering Committee.