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Archaeologists and the DeadMortuary Archaeology in Contemporary Society$
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Howard Williams and Melanie Giles

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198753537

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198753537.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 01 December 2021

Personhood and Re-Embodiment in Osteological Practice

Personhood and Re-Embodiment in Osteological Practice

(p.39) 3 Personhood and Re-Embodiment in Osteological Practice
Archaeologists and the Dead

John McClelland

Jessica I. Cerezo-Román

Oxford University Press

The repatriation movement in the USA has had a profound impact on how human remains are viewed by osteologists and archaeologists. Federal repatriation legislation, including the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA, PL 101–610; 25 U.S.C. 3001 et seq., 1990) and the National Museum of the American Indian Act (NMAIA, PL 101–185; 20 U.S.C 80q et seq., 1989) have led museums to transfer control of collections to affiliated descendant communities. Similar laws have been enacted in the states (e.g. A.R.S. §41–844, §41–865 [Arizona]; Cal. Health and Saf. Code, §8010, et seq. [California]; La. R.S. 8:671, et seq. [Louisiana]; Me. R.S. 13:1371– A [Maine]), with some preceding federal action and others a response to it (Seidemann 2010). Ancestral skeletal remains and objects were once regarded as cultural resources under the authoritative control of scientists (Colwell- Chanthaphonh 2009: 6–12). The struggle for the rights of indigenous people and others to determine disposition of ancestral remains challenged scientific authority and led to self-reflection on the part of the profession. Osteologists and archaeologists were reminded that they are dealing with deceased persons and that their actions are socially constructed manipulations of the dead, not unlike the work of other mortuary practitioners. This work is inextricably concerned with reconstructing identities. This involves both an effort to characterize the identities of past individuals or groups in life and to transform the dead anew, creating new identities for a variety of audiences. The process of identity reconstruction may be considered a re-embodiment of the person and that process is what this chapter is about. We illustrate this discussion with a case study of the analysis and repatriation of individuals exhumed from the Alameda-Stone Cemetery, Tucson, Arizona, USA. We use this example to show how individual and community identities are formed, neglected, transformed, and reconstructed in a large multicultural burial assemblage. The human body is universally regarded as an aesthetic object and an inseparable component of personal identity, but its value as an object of scientific inquiry is perhaps uniquely emphasized in Western thought. Once restricted to science and the medical profession, interest in the materiality of the body has now found a much broader audience.

Keywords:   Arizona Daily Star, NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act), Southern Arizona Veterans Memorial Cemetery, Sierra Vista (USA), dental analysis, biological profiling

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