Much of the Tropenmuseum’s pre-Columbian collection was brought together by one man whose career was truly remarkable. Dr. Hans Feriz collected a vast number of artefacts from an area ranging roughly from Alaska to Brazil, and dating from between 3000 BC to the 15th century.
Born in Vienna, in 1895, Hans Feriz studied medicine in Vienna, Göttingen, Cologne and Munich, before migrating to the Netherlands after the First World War. In 1923, Feriz was appointed assistant to Prof. Otto Lanz, a famous surgeon who was also a well-known art collector. After Lanz’s death in 1935, Feriz continued to teach pathological anatomy privately at the University of Amsterdam for another five years. Meanwhile, Feriz founded his own surgical practice in Amsterdam, on which he focused exclusively after leaving the university in 1940.
Occasionally, Feriz also worked as a ship’s doctor. It was on a voyage to New York in 1931 that he visited the Museum of Natural History and became interested in objects from Central and South America.
It was not until 1947 that Feriz first saw Lima, Peru. When he visited the museum he was captivated by the magic of pre-Columbian culture. Even more so, after he had discovered and excavated Moche culture pottery on land owned by an acquaintance in Peru. He was later to find more pottery and even fabrics from Paracas and Nazca cultures.
In subsequent years, Feriz visited Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia where he continued excavating as an amateur archaeologist. Feriz went on digs in Panama and Costa Rica and helped significantly in expanding the limited archaeological record of these areas. Together with K. Curtis and E. Tatelman, he found traces of what was still a relatively unknown culture from the period of 300 BC- 300 AD. They named the culture Tabasará, after the region. Feriz lectured on the topic in the 1950s and wrote a number of articles and a book.
Hans Feriz was introduced to staff at Amsterdam’s Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) in 1950. His knowledge and experience led five years later to an honorary appointment as a specialist in American Archaeology to KIT’s department of Cultural and Physical Anthropology. After each trip, Feriz donated various objects he had found to the Tropenmuseum, then still part of the institute.
In 1969, Hans Feriz donated a collection of around 1,440 pre-Columbian artworks and artefacts to the Tropenmuseum. This almost doubled the number of items he had already donated or sold to the museum in previous years. The collection includes pottery, textiles, tools, beads and other objects. Feriz died in Montreux on 31 August 1970.
Compilation and text—Richard van Alphen, Herman van Gessel