Explanations of terms from the field of provenance research and Proveana's four research contexts.

An overview page with all terms is also available.


Berlin Conference

With the participation of 13 European states as well as the USA and the Ottoman Empire, this conference - also known as the "Congo Conference" - took place in Berlin from 15 November 1884 to 26 February 1885. The reason for the meeting was the competition for political spheres of influence between the European colonial powers on the African continent, which had become evident since the 1880s. More and more European states began to occupy respective territories. In this situation, the Belgian King Leopold II was able to convince France and the German Empire that a joint agreement among the Western colonial powers to divide up spheres of interest would be useful. The Belgian king pursued this goal to secure his holdings in the Congo Free State. The overall result of the conference was to achieve the mutual recognition of spheres of interest and the consequent avoidance of conflicts among the colonial powers. Even though the later colonial borders of the African continent were not defined at the conference, the Congo Act adopted by the participating states formed the basis for the further division of Africa. The conference is thus symbolic of the partition of Africa by the European colonial powers that took place in the following decades. (JH)

  • Cultural goods and collections from colonial contexts

Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory (BGAEU)

In 1869, several scholars from various disciplines (Rudolf Virchow, Adolf Bastian, Robert Hartmann) founded the "Berlin Anthropological Society" (Berliner Anthropologische Gesellschaft), which was the forerunner of today’s "Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory" (Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte). Similar societies emerged in other German and European cities around that time, providing a platform for scholars and interested members of the public to discuss specific topics. The BGAEU had a global network of corresponding members who frequently exchanged letters with one another. In the 19th century in particular, the society’s members included influential ethnologists, anthropologists and archaeologists.
The BGAEU still exists today. It has its own archive and manages an important anthropological collection known as the "Rudolf Virchow Collection" (RV Collection); most of its non-European holdings were amassed during the colonial period. Numerous collections in the Berlin museums can be traced back to the society’s earlier research and some are still legally owned by them.
Ever since the BGAEU was founded, it has organized regular lectures, discussions and other events for its members, and it has been involved in the publication of the "Journal of Social and Cultural Anthropology" (Zeitschrift für Ethnologie). Since 1965, it has also published periodical "Notifications of the Berlin Society for Anthropology, Ethnology and Prehistory" (Mitteilungen der Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte) with lectures and reports from its monthly meetings, bodies, annual reports and information about other activities carried out by the society and its members.

  • Cultural goods and collections from colonial contexts

Berliner Gesellschaft für Anthropologie, Ethnologie und Urgeschichte: Geschichte. (letzer Zugriff 24.08.2021)

Boxer War

The so-called "Boxer War" was a violent resistance movement known as the "Boxers" against European, US and Japanese imperialism in China. The "Boxer movement" came in response to the social and political inequality that had been provoked, for example, by Christian missions and unequal treaties between China and the imperialist powers. The conflict came to a head in the spring and summer of 1900, when foreigners and Chinese Christians were targeted by acts of violence and the German envoy was murdered. In response to this resistance, two "punitive expeditions" were dispatched and ultimately brought about the victory of the colonial powers over China and the suppression of the "Boxer movement".
"Boxer" is a term coined by the European powers that mainly refers to the fact that the first followers of the movement were trained in traditional martial arts. The proper Chinese term for the "Boxers" was "Yìhétuán" (Militia United in Righteousness) or "Yìhéquán" (Righteous and Harmonious Fists). (JH)

  • Cultural goods and collections from colonial contexts