Evidential Ethics

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When I began to frame the research question for my doctoral dissertation on repatriation I did so in a very adversarial and antagonistic climate in the U.S., where archaeologists with a forensic bend were piJed against Native Americans, ohen dubbed “the culture wars”. My ethnographic fieldwork largely consisted in following how the seven-member NAGPRA Review CommiJee made “findings” on this terrain of evidence as the CommiJed was tasked to make findings and 3 recommendations on disputes brought before it. In the ahermath of 9/11 – in a stormy November of 2001 - I witnessed the Paiute Shoshone tribe make arguments for “cultural affiliation” with the 8500 years old human remains recovered in 1940 in a small alcove in Nevada, named Spirit Cave. The position of the forensic inclined archaeologist was that Spirit Cave Man was “a kin too distant” and that the case represented “a clash between two systems of conceptualizing and tracing human history” (Owsley, 2002). The morphometric analysis demonstrated that: “the Spirit Cave skull falls outside the range of variation of modern samples, and, in particular, it shows no affinity to Native American samples. The closest biological sample is the Ainu of Japan (Owsley, 2002: 148). Fast forward to 2015, where the Center for GeoGene*cs at the University of Copenhagen performed a genetic sequencing from 200 milligrams from the hand bone, which led to the conclusion that: “It’s very clear that the genome sequence shows that Spirit Cave Man is most closely related to contemporary Native Americans.”. (Willerslev; 2015). In the light of this case, I would like to raise the question if the Enlightenment in the shape of the new evidential regime of genome sequencing enables a mutual understanding between adherents of different moralities and beliefs? And if the remains from Spirit Cave Man are repatriated to the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe considered to most closely affiliated would such an act provide healing and closure?
Antal sider5
StatusUdgivet - 2023
BegivenhedChanging Ethics in Addressing Human Remains - Holbornsches Haus, Göttingen, Tyskland
Varighed: 17 nov. 202317 nov. 2023


WorkshopChanging Ethics in Addressing Human Remains
LokationHolbornsches Haus