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Put Them Back! Or, Some Thoughts On The Tension Between Science and Cultute

Put Them Back! Or, Some Thoughts On The Tension Between Science and Culture




Llullaillaco Maiden — A 15 year old girl sacrificed during the Inca Empire for both purposes of religious rite and social control. She was chosen a year prior to her death, fed a ritualistic diet for an approximate twelve months to make her gain weight, then was drugged and left on the shrine at Volcano Llullaillaco, where she was left to die of exposure. For five hundred years, her body had been preserved at 82 ft. She is considered to be the best preserved Andean mummy ever uncovered. 

First thing that came into my mind upon seeing this image:

Where was this picture taken? Who are these people?

Did they put her back?



 Answer, upon looking at google? No. No they didn’t. She and several others are currently in a museum.

But hey, at least they’re in the right country.

::bitterly drinks coffee::

“The research, by a British-led team” This is my suprised face. See how suprised I am?

I mean, I understand the intrinsic value of exploring really ancient gravesites and researching them and photographing them, even in taking minute samples for carbon dating and stuff. But PUT THEM BACK. In the event that you have to move them at all, which YOU PROBLY DON’T (situations in which bringing corpses to large imaging devices is relevant aside). But once that’s done, PUT THEM BACK.

Because, yanno, they were people. Because they ARE people.

These children DIED to be in the place that you found them, jackasses.

People visiting the museum would get just as much in terms of educational experience from a well-made replica and a bunch of detailed photos. You do not need the actual human corpse there. If you truly and deeply need to see human corpses for the sake of anatomical detail, go to Bodyworlds or its like. The people there volunteered to be there.

Stop robbing graves in the name of science.

We should know better by now.

Very very important commentary.

My agree face is so fierce right now. Also, that thing about British scientists pinged me the same way, too.

As some may know, I’ve been studying ancient Egypt off and on for several years as research for a book. And while I deeply appreciate the work of Egyptologists to uncover the past, I often find myself staring at books or standing incredulous in museums thinking: WTF why are there corpses here? Who gave these people the right to desecrate these graves, take the stuff and people out of them, and not even have the common courtesy to return them once they’re done examining them? 

I enjoy looking at artifacts in museums very much. But I try to never lose sight of the fact that, with Egyptian stuff, the majority of them are items meant to stay with the deceased according to their beliefs. And just because we do not have these beliefs, we do not get to just dig shit up and cart it around.

Visiting the British Museum and seeing an actual dead body on display made me want to cut someone. How is that even okay? That person was laid to rest. Even if I concede that it’s all right to study him for the furtherance of knowledge, I so, so agree with the poster above: PUT HIM BACK.

Zahi Hawass, the Minister of Antiquities in Egypt, annoys the living daylights out of me with his fame seeking and crazypants. But I will forever give him credit for taking a hard line on ancient Egyptian artifacts, noting that those belong to his country and his people, not to the British or French or Portuguese or any other European or American entities that stole them int he past when they had the political and military power to do so. 

Hawass does not let people cart the body of King Tut around, but instead sends a full-size replica out for exhibitions. This will probably preserve the body for further scientific study for longer than King Ramses (who I remember seeing on display when I was wee), and also preserves his damn dignity. 

Yes, these are people. No matter how long they’ve been dead and no matter what your beliefs about what happens when people die and whatnot, these were real people and should be given more respect. UGH.

(Also, I am severely uncomfortable with the scene depicted in the picture. It’s a visual for exploitation and appropriation that doesn’t sit right, even though I know it’s just dispassionate science… right.)

From The Angry Black Tumblr | Comment below or Reblog @ Tumblr

3 thoughts on “Put Them Back! Or, Some Thoughts On The Tension Between Science and Cultute”

  1. Evamaria says:

    Whenever I see a mummy (or similar) anywhere I feel deeply uncomfortable. The worst is when I don’t expect it, like the time I visited the gorgeous baroque cloister library of St. Gallen, Switzerland, and in between the books and book display there suddenly was a mummy under glass…

    Seriously, what would we think if our grandparents were put on display for people to gawk at, totally disregarding our traditions and respect for the dead? I’d much rather look at a photo or replica (which also has the advantage of preserving the original).

  2. Laura says:

    My first thought being: “I thought that was a live model in an art piece. Holy ”

    My second thought (on re-reading article) is: where? You can’t put them back now. Thier location is known, and now grave robbers who respect the dead a whole hell of a lot less than even those scientists do will happily pick those bodies up and sell them to private collectors.

    Found another article where the scientists have agreed not to take anymore bodies from the Mountain after locals told them not to: (A couple interesting comments)

  3. Erin says:

    I dig your style, but honestly, you should never come to France. Any time I walk around a museum, from art to natural history, I wonder if there are any artifacts left in Egypt.

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