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date: 23 January 2022

Abstract and Keywords

Attitudes towards the collection and study of human remains have changed significantly, reflecting social, intellectual, and political changes worldwide. This chapter examines ethical practice in biological anthropology in Aboriginal Australia over the last 25 years. Case studies include burial archaeology, collections, reburial, and repatriation, focusing on Aboriginal participation and perceptions. In the 1980s, researchers recognized Indigenous rights to control their heritage and acknowledged the role of their disciplines in its appropriation, including ancestral remains. This period was characterized by optimism that, with mutual respect and negotiation, shared and complementary histories of the past could be produced. Sustained demonizing of biological anthropologists and the promotion of anti-science perspectives within the social sciences disrupted this promise. Scientists have been marginalized from repatriation negotiations, and biological anthropology in Aboriginal Australia is virtually at an end. The chapter concludes by discussing the consequences of Indigenous Australians removing themselves from the biological history of humankind.

Keywords: biological anthropology, repatriation, reburial, museum curation, human remains, Aboriginal Australia

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