Aboriginal skeletal collections and research in physical anthropology: An historical perspective

23rd January 2014

Denise Donlon

Introduction*

Research in physical anthropology in Australia has long been dependent upon collections of skeletal remains of Aboriginal people. In the decade 1984 to 1994 some important collections were reburied and Aboriginal people were given control over access to most skeletal collections. This paper traces research in physical anthropology in the last 20 years within the context of changes in control of access to Aboriginal skeletal collections.

The effects of reburial and the greater Aboriginal control over access to skeletal collections on the discipline of physical anthropology in Australia are complex and still debated. I do not intend to discuss the ethical and moral issues here, as they have been examined elsewhere (Langford 1983; Stone 1992). What I do hope to achieve is a dispassionate discussion of how reburial and the greater Aboriginal control over collections of skeletal remains have affected the type, amount and quality of research in physical anthropology. Also examined are ways in which these factors are likely to affect future research directions.

*Note that an abstract was not included with this paper, and so the introductory paragraph has been included here instead of the abstract.

Donlon, D.
Aboriginal skeletal collections and research in physical anthropology: An historical perspective
December 1994
39
73–82
Article
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