Pre-Columbian Artifacts Donated to PSU

December 13th, 2006 by Adam

“I have always loved Plymouth and the University,” said 80 year-old Olga Bowen. The former biochemistry researcher has donated four Pre-Columbian pottery vessels to PSU, providing immeasurable value to the University’s Anthropology program and students. How did these priceless artifacts come to Rounds Hall? It is a story of long-held respect for the school and a selfless, benevolent approach to sharing knowledge and history.

Olga Bowen is a native of Costa Rica, a small Central American nation boasting the world’s oldest Spanish-speaking democracy. Bowen came to the U.S in the 1940’s to study in the Boston area, met her husband, John Bradley Bowen, and settled in Wellesley, Mass. Bowen raised eight children after working at Massachusetts General Hospital, conducting biochemistry research for Harvard University.

Bowen’s husband had a thriving dentistry practice and took up a friend’s offer to visit the Plymouth area. The family fell in love with the Baker River Valley, building a vacation home on Tenney Mountain.

“I always thought of Plymouth as the prototypical New England town, I loved being here, it was so refreshing,” Bowen said. The family often visited Lake Winnipesaukee and occasionally attended arts events at Plymouth State, but didn’t initially have a strong connection to the institution.

Bowen and her husband retired in 1991 and moved to the Plymouth area, bringing with them the four pottery vessels which were displayed on a shelf in her home. Bowen originally acquired three of them in the 1960’s, when a member of her family uncovered them while digging fence posts on a cattle ranch in Costa Rica’s Guanacaste province on the Pacific coast.
The fourth pot, from the country’s central highlands, is a tripod pot with three animal head-shaped legs and was found by an amateur archaeologist, a distant relative of Bowen’s.

“It is very rare to find artifacts like this in Costa Rica,” said Bowen. “I believe they date back from 600-1200 A.D., pre-dating Christopher Columbus’s discovery of the New World.”

One of pots is polychromatic, or multi-colored, and all are in excellent condition. David Starbuck, coordinator of Anthropology and Sociology at PSU, says the pots are a remarkable acquisition. “These are about to go on display in one of our anthropology classrooms, where students and others can admire them. It is very important that students be able to see the unique achievements of other cultures and not just see pictures in books,” Starbuck said.

PSU President Sara Jayne Steen also emphasized the importance of this gift. “Mrs. Bowen’s generosity will provide generations of PSU students with an experience that they otherwise would not have had.”

Bowen downplays her generous gift, saying “What good are they to me? I just ask you to take care of them. I had always intended on giving them to the University because it has special place in my heart.”

For more information, contact Bruce Lyndes, PSU Media Relations Mgr., 603-535-2775 or blyndes@plymouth.edu