In 1724 the Jesuit Joseph-François Lafitau published 'Moeurs des sauvages amériquains comparée aux moeurs des premiers temps', preceded by a celebrated frontispiece. The scene selected by Lafitau depicts time and the act of writing, arranged in an enclosed space composed of the 'remnants' of classical Antiquity and the savages of the New World (who are heard only as the voices of the dead, the echoes of mute Antiquity, explained by a confrontation of archaeology and ethnology). A 'person in the pose of writing' is portrayed opposite 'Time' - a bewinged old man performing the gesture of an angelic messenger. The former holds a pen with which he writes a text, and the latter - a scythe, which divests of life… The frontispiece describes the 'reconstruction of history' in a laboratory: all indirectness has vanished, and there are no data to examine apart from the 'relics'. Driven away from the angels and Time, the writer is alone in his task of recreating the world from residues, including those of the Other. In other words, he is 'Lazarus' - to whom Lévi-Strauss compared the ethnologist - returning from the world of the dead to the living, and equipped with incomparable knowledge incomprehensible to his contemporaries…
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