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Provenance research and historical sources for understanding Nineteenth-century scientific interest in Indigenous human remains: the scholarly journals and popular science media


Knapman, G and Turnbull, P and Fforde, C, Provenance research and historical sources for understanding Nineteenth-century scientific interest in Indigenous human remains: the scholarly journals and popular science media, The Routledge Companion to Indigenous Repatriation: return, reconcile, renew, Routledge, Fforde Cressida, McKeown C. Timothy, Keeler Honor (ed), United Kingdom, pp. 1018. ISBN 9780203730966 (2020) [Research Book Chapter]

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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples have been studied by Western science since the late eighteenth century. Up until the early 1930s, European and Australian-based scientists who were interested in human origins and variation sought to acquire skulls and other bodily remains of the continent’s first peoples as systematically as circumstances allowed. Reportage of the acquisition of remains and the findings of the scientists who examined them (anatomists and anthropologists) are found in a range of scientific publications, especially those founded from the 1850s onwards by anthropological societies in metropolitan European capital cities.

Research into this scientific literature assists repatriation researchers by enabling them to trace information about the location and provenance of Ancestral Remains held in museums and other collecting institutions, as well as in private hands. To assist in such research, this chapter provides an overview of key scientific and popular literature relating to the procurement and use of Indigenous Ancestral Remains. Even if detailed information on provenance is not forthcoming within the literature, gaining background knowledge about a collector and his or her movements can often contribute to a suite of evidence to help understand where, when, how and why Ancestral Remains were removed and to trace in what institution they may now be located. The chapter reviews the Australian and European literature, information that can be used as a ‘scaffold’ to trace similar literature in other jurisdictions.

The publishing sources are diverse and include daily newspapers, scientific journals, naturalist societies’ transactions, medical journals, and also the first anthropological magazine. The chapter acts as a guide to the literature, outlines the extent of the source material, and provides ideas on how the sources can be used. It begins with an overview of relevant online publication metadatabases followed by a section on Australian resources in the form of newspapers and society journals. It ends with a brief overview of major scientific publications in various countries in nineteenth-century Europe.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:Indigenous history, history of science, human remains, repatriation
Research Division:History and Archaeology
Research Group:Historical Studies
Research Field:Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander History
Objective Division:Cultural Understanding
Objective Group:Heritage
Objective Field:Conserving Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Heritage
UTAS Author:Turnbull, P (Professor Paul Turnbull)
ID Code:138131
Year Published:2020
Funding Support:Australian Research Council (LP130100131)
Deposited By:Office of the School of Humanities
Deposited On:2020-03-26
Last Modified:2020-03-27

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