The 89th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2020)


Session 62. The Skeletons in Our Closets: Addressing Ethical Issues Involved in the Acquisition, Curation, and Analysis of Human Remains (Joint PPA-AAPA Symposium). Invited Podium Symposium. Chair: Kathryn E. Marklein Co-organizers: Kathryn E. Marklein, Department of Anthropology, University of Louisville; Molly K. Zuckerman, Department of Anthropology and Middle Eastern Cultures, Mississippi State University

April 18, 2020 2 p.m. - 5 p.m., Diamond 4 Add to calendar

The state of curated human remains has moved recently from the background of bioarchaeological concerns to being nearly coequal as an analytical and interrogative focus with skeletal collections’ more established research uses. In particular, topical symposia on the ethical treatment of human remains at recent (e.g., AAA 2017, SAA 2018, PPA 2019) conferences have resurrected discussions about research responsibility and cultural stewardship. This introspective narrative expands upon dialogues in North American archaeological ethics initiated in the late 20th century with the culmination of NAGPRA legislation, and calls us to recognize and further ameliorate ethical shortcomings in our acquisition, treatment, and analysis of human remains. Here, researchers from academic and applied backgrounds address issues that arise from pre-excavation and acquisition to post-publication of human remains. In the case of Indigenous remains, the ethical regulations and legality of research govern and direct the objectives and outputs of any bioarchaeological project, but such formal and legal accountability does not exist for many non-affiliated and non-indigenous human remains, such as from African American cemeteries. As a result, the curation and study of reference and teaching collections exhibit differential regulation and oversight across institutions on regional, national, and international levels.  As researchers, practitioners, and educators, presenters herein take differing approaches to answering questions of how we mitigate current and (anticipated) future issues in ethics and how we resolve inherited issues. Through an emphasis on case studies, they discuss how biological anthropologists negotiate their obligations as scientists to the perpetuation of knowledge with their responsibilities to the populations (and descendant communities) they study.

2:00PM Add to calendar From the classroom to the field: A critical review of ethics in human osteological pedagogy and literature. . Kathryn E. Marklein, Stacy Drake.
2:15PM Add to calendar Curating, researching and exhibiting human remains from around the world, a British Museum perspective. Daniel Antoine.
2:30PM Add to calendar Standing ground against entropy: The history of the osteological collections from San Pedro de Atacama, Chile. Mark Hubbe, Christina Torres-Rouff.
2:45PM Add to calendar Let's go digital! First steps towards setting up a digital bioarchaeological reference collection for the Eastern Mediterranean. Efthymia Nikita.
3:00PM Add to calendar Reclaiming lost identities: Ethical engagement with the unclaimed dead in anatomical collections. Carlina M. de la Cova.
3:15PM Add to calendar Ethical Considerations and Stewardship of Contemporary Donated Human Remains. Dawnie W. Steadman, Mary C. Davis, Joanne B. Devlin, Heli Maijanen, Lee M. Jantz, Giovanna M. Vidoli.
3:30PM Add to calendar Curating Biomolecules: Molecular Legacies and Untold Stories from the Smithsonian’s Biological Anthropology Collections. Rita M. Austin, Courtney A. Hofman, Sabrina B. Sholts.
3:45PM Add to calendar Whose Bodies? Whose Data? Whose Responsibility? Ethical Concerns and Outcomes Regarding the Study of Indigenous Ancestral Remains . George Nicholas, Laure Spake.
4:00PM Add to calendar Incorporating community feedback and ethical concepts of personhood into bioarchaeological practice: Informing excavation, curation, and analysis at the cemetery of the Mississippi State Asylum with contextualized feedback from the community of practice. Molly K. Zuckerman, Anna J. Osterholtz, L. Kate McClellan.
4:15PM Add to calendar Issues and Ethical Considerations in Molecular Paleopathology. Elizabeth A. Nelson, Alyssa C. Bader, Deborah A. Bolnick, Jane E. Buikstra, Keolu Fox, Courtney Hofman.
4:30PM Discussants: Michael Blakey, Deborah Bolnick